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Valuable British Beef Finishing Progress

17 January 2012

EBLEX

UK - Beef producers across the country have made valuable progress in improving the financial and environmental efficiency of their enterprises in recent years by significantly increasing the proportion of stock finished at a younger age, the latest EBLEX analysis reveals.

The industry body’s analysis of all cattle slaughtered annually in Great Britain, taken from official BCMS data, shows an increasing proportion of prime beef being finished at under 24 months of age over the past two years. The effect is particularly marked when cattle slaughtered at under 15 months are excluded from the calculations, removing differing annual levels of bull beef finishing from the equation.

Last year just over 54 per cent of animals between the ages of 15 and 36 months being slaughtered in British abattoirs were 24 months of age or less, with 46 per cent older than two years of age. This is clear improvement on the 49 per cent and 51 per cent respectively recorded in 2010 and the 45 per cent and 55 per cent recorded in 2009 (Figure).

Finishing animals at a younger age is particularly beneficial given the well-recognised feed conversion efficiency (FCE) advantages of younger animals.

As animals become older, their FCE reduces as a result of the far superior metabolic efficiency of younger stock, and the growing level of nutrients required to maintain body functions as liveweight increases.

In addition to an increasing risk of over-fatness and over-weight penalties, older stock have been shown to have a generally poorer conformation than younger, faster-grown contemporaries. And finishing stock at a younger age can noticeably improve cash flow while spreading fixed costs by allowing more animals to be accommodated each year.

With barley-based finishing rations costing as much as £2/head/day and commercial performance studies indicating little, if any, worthwhile increases in continental-cross carcase weight beyond 23-24 months of age, faster finishing is clearly paying useful financial dividends for many. In addition, studies suggest it can be an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from beef production.

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