'Blueprint' Is Key To Profitable Beef Production

UK - Following a 'blueprint' which has delivered proven results for 10 years holds the key to profitable, sustainable beef production, farmers from the South West of England were told at a recent farm open day in Somerset to highlight the fast growing demand for top-quality beef.
calendar icon 7 April 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Organised by Blade Farming, BOCM PAULS and Pfizer, the open day at Mervyn Keeling's Wilmington Farm, Wilmington near Bath provided farmers with an opportunity to learn more about the quality beef market and make an informed decision about adding a potential additional revenue stream to an existing livestock business.

"Demand for top-quality beef is tremendous, but at the moment it is not being met because the British beef industry is generally uncoordinated, very traditional and not geared up to deliver the premium product that an increasing number of customers require. To compete in a fast-changing marketplace the industry will have to up its game," emphasised Richard Phelps of Somerset-based Blade Farming, which specialises in producing beef of the highest quality. That produced through its Aberdeen Angus finishing scheme is extremely tender, succulent and full of flavour, which has led to a surge in demand and opened up a wealth of opportunities for producers.

"Whilst we currently have a wide range of options to market top-quality beef into premium outlets and achieve premium prices our ability to do so depends entirely on being able to deliver consistently high quality products," emphasises Mr Phelps. "That can only be achieved via a proven system that utilises consistent inputs to generate the uniform products which customers require.

"The big attraction for contracted producers is that Blade Farming offers them a guaranteed forward price for the lifetime of the animal, operates a batch system which makes the system easy to manage, provides a supply of consistent, healthy weaned calves from dedicated rearing units and sets out exactly how to produce high-quality beef. br>
"The system also encompasses a comprehensive package of support, the Blade Farmworks cattle management programme to measure financial and physical data, plus full support from BOCM PAULS, a leader in ruminant nutrition and the UK's only national compounder, together with leading animal health company Pfizer. It is a unique system which has been proven over the last 10 years."

Richard Greasley, Sales Manager of BOCM PAULS, which provides full nutritional support to many of Blade Farming's contracted producers, added: "The only way to produce consistent high-quality beef from a fully-sustainable production system is to start with a high-quality calf and build on that firm foundation with high- quality nutrition and health programmes.

"BOCM PAULS has worked closely with Blade Farming for a number of years and the collaboration enables producers to fulfil the high genetic potential of calves supplied under Blade's Aberdeen Angus Beef Finishing Scheme and subsequently to achieve optimum production efficiency and financial returns.

"The Blade Scheme is attracting great interest from livestock farmers who are looking for greater business security in these uncertain times. It appeals particularly to former dairy farmers and those thinking of exiting the sector who are well suited to the scheme, having been used to maximising the performance of their cows and following a production plan. Having also been used to receiving a monthly milk cheque they will appreciate the monthly beef cheque from this scheme."

Host farmer Mervyn Keeling, who decided to leave dairying four years ago due to the high cost of reinvestment combined with labour problems, told the audience that having started out in beef by buying continental breeds at markets he adopted the Blade Traditional Beef Scheme four years ago. During that time he has taken over 500 calves, more than 300 of which have now been sold, the youngest being finished at 16 months of age.

"I was attracted by the simplicity of the scheme and the fact that it allows us to follow a proven formula with proven profitability but, unlike dairying, it gives us more time to pursue other business options," says Mr Keeling, who has found that the Aberdeen Angus beef cattle he now produces take 3-4 months less to finish than his previous continentals and are much more profitable."

Aberdeen Angus cross calves arriving from Blade Farming's rearing units go onto the farm at three months of age and are reared on to be finished, ideally by 20 months of age. This simple, extensive system requires the cattle to be grazed for at least six months of their life and they are finished on a high cereal diet with a mineral supplement. Cattle that fit these requirements and specifications, and achieve the minimum carcass weight of 245 Kg deadweight, command a significant premium through the abattoir.

Blade Farming's unique forward price contact allows farmers such as Mr Keeling to budget for the beef enterprise. The Aberdeen Angus contract, for example, has a guaranteed minimum base price and a premium tracker price that is well above standard beef prices. There are veal prices, too, for Holstein young bull calves which are the equivalent of £3.25 and above for calves based on the current UK grading systems.

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