THE role of the Hereford as the first choice for grass based beef production is highlighted in field trials currently underway in the Republic of Ireland.
The publication earlier this month by the Irish Farmers Journal of the most recent data from its ‘Thrive – Dairy Calf to Beef Programme’ compares the performance of the progeny of different beef sires. This programme aims to demonstrate best practice for producing beef from dairy bred calves through the use of higher genetic merit AI beef sires with the emphasis on a high level of efficiency in on-farm nutrition and animal health.
The demonstration farm is located in Cashel, County Tipperary, with 140 calves sired by four different beef breeds reared each year and being brought to slaughter between the ages of 18 to 21 months. The target for heifers is to slaughter at 275kg and at 19 months of age while the target for bullocks is to slaughter at 300kgs, at a similar age.
Maximising production from grass is a major element of the programme and the aim is to slaughter as many of the 140 cattle as possible at the end of the second summer grazing period to avoid extra winter feeding costs. The breeds being compared in the trial are Hereford, Angus, Limousin and Belgian Blue.
To date the Hereford crosses have led the way in terms of ease of finishing with 80 per cent of the Hereford heifers already having been slaughtered off grass. By contrast, none of the Belgian blues have been drafted for slaughter and are in fact being housed early to try to get them finished. An impressive 64 per cent of the Hereford steers have been drafted for slaughter off grass while just 23 per cent of the Limousins and 31 per cent of Angus could be finished from the field. It is notable that the Belgian Blue calves selected for the project cost €100/head more than the Hereford-sired calves.
Meal was introduced to finishing stock at grass from August 1 and again it was the Hereford crosses which required the lowest meal input with the heifers averaging 171kgs and the Hereford steers 233kgs – significantly less than the other breeds.
The average slaughter weight for Hereford heifers was 532kgs with the average price being paid of €3.82/kg, which included 10 cents/kg Hereford Prime breed bonus.
This was the highest average price paid for heifers across the three breeds and translates to a carcase value of €1,038 after a kill out percentage of 51.1 per cent.
The average carcase weight for Hereford bullocks was 316kg at an average price of €3.74/kg (including the Hereford Prime bonus) giving an average carcase value of €1,182. The Hereford bullocks were also the best performing breed in terms of daily liveweight gain at grass, achieving over 1.04kg/day.
Local Hereford Association Chair-man Adrian Irvine commented: “It is well known that Herefords are a sustainable choice. Being an early maturing breed, they are much easier and quicker to finish for slaughter off grass without much extra feed.
“The innate efficiency of the breed makes it ideal for low cost, grass based systems which will leave a profit margin for the producer.”