Duration 3 years

Team and Leader L. Dawson, F. Lively and B. Moss

Organisations Involved Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland

Background and Summary

Currently, production of beef from the suckler herd is a relatively inefficient way of producing beef as the cow has to be maintained whilst it takes up to 30 months to produce a finished animal. Prime beef production from the suckler herd has declined in recent years to the current level of 53% of beef output. 

Furthermore it is envisaged that beef production from the suckler herd will decline further post implementation of the Mid Term Review (MTR) due to the predicted decrease in suckler cow numbers and consequently progeny available for finishing. One approach which may be used to increase beef production from the suckler herd involves the production of heavy carcasses from bulls to maximise output from a limited supply of quality cattle.

Post implementation of the MTR, beef production will have to be profitable in a subsidy free market-led environment. Feed is a major cost in beef production. There is a paucity of data on the effect of weight at slaughter of young bulls with a high proportion of continental genetics on food conversion efficiency, particularly when offered diets of a high plane of nutrition.

Currently there are major uncertainties as to the potential costs of cereals and the price producers will receive for finished cattle at slaughter. Finishing young animals of good conformation and carcass weight would enable additional premiums to be gained at the point of slaughter as these animals would be eligible for high price markets within the European Union.

Timescale

Autumn 2005 Purchase suckled bulls at weaning and put onto a high plane of nutrition study.
Summer 2006 Slaughter bulls at different slaughter weights ranging from 550 to 800 kg.
Autumn 2006 Purchase suckled bulls at weaning and put onto a high plane of nutrition study.
Summer 2007 Slaughter bulls at different slaughter weights ranging from 550 to 800 kg.
Undertake meat quality studies prior to July 2007.
Final Report due December 2007.

Benefits

1. Develop relationships between food conversion efficiency and weight at slaughter to identify the optimum weight to slaughter bulls depending on the relative price of feed to beef.
2. Produce carcasses for high priced niche markets in Continental Europe.
3. Increase prime beef production from the suckler herd.
4. Assess the effects of weight at slaughter on meat quality.

Attachments:
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Download this file (Booklet_15_-_For_Web.pdf)Maximising Beef OutputMaximising Beef Output from the Suckler Herd through Production of Heavy Suckler Bulls - B-06-04 549 kB