Don't Sell Under-Finished Cattle

UK - The English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) have warned producers that selling forward stores as finished stock could lead to lower returns and target penalties.
calendar icon 21 October 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

With a good summer of grazing coming to an end, beef producers are often tempted to sell their animals as finished stock, sometimes prematurely. This can lead to the market being flooded with cattle which do not meet target specification and therefore receive penalties, seeing returns which are significantly below the maximum achievable.

EBLEX is urging producers to either sell the animals as forward stores or hold them back and finish the cattle to a better conformation and fat class to maximise the return on each animal.

“This Autumn, the market could easily be flooded with cattle that do not meet target specification when they come off grass, which consequently leads to penalties and lower returns,” warned Steve Powdrill, EBLEX North East Regional Manager.

“Under-finished cattle are in less demand, and also may not have reached their full potential weight, meaning the finisher loses out on those valuable extra kilos. This in turn leads to a poor killing out percentage, again reducing returns.”

Taking advantage of buoyant store prices offers producers one option to protect their returns and also generate immediate cashflow. Alternatively, the current relatively low feed prices mean that a few months of intensive finishing for these forward stores could lead to a favourable return.

“Analysis has shown that maximum net margins tend to be reached at slaughter weights of approximately 650 kg live weight for steers, varying according to breed and system, beyond which further increasing the live weight is less cost-effective,” said Dr Mary Vickers, EBLEX Senior Beef and Sheep Scientist.

“Good growth rates are easiest to achieve during the first 60-100 days on feed. After this time they reduce as cattle mature and the advantages achieved from compensatory growth diminish.”

The EBLEX Beef Better Returns Programme (BRP) offers a range of resources designed to help beef producers improve their returns, including a manual providing guidance on feeding finishing cattle and a manual and DVD about selecting cattle for slaughter. In addition, BRP offers producers the opportunity to attend Live-to-Dead Days at abattoirs looking at both clean cattle and cull cows, handling them and assessing conformation and fatness relative to market requirements both on the hoof and on the hook. For more information visit

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