Is the price right?

There are marked differences between beef farmers' outgoings in Wales with some incurring twice as many costs as others and at the same time producing less beef per animal.

There are marked differences between beef farmers' outgoings in Wales with some incurring twice as many costs as others and at the same time producing less beef per animal, according to the latest snapshot survey issued by Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

The new HCC Beef Cost of Production Survey, published to coincide with this week's industry get-together, the Royal Welsh Show Winter Fair, divided the farmers who participated in the survey into three groups - the top third, bottom third and an average of all farms.

A notable variation occurred between the bottom third - who cover less of their costs through market returns, compared to the top third who cover most of their costs through market returns - was the weight of beef produced per cow, with the top third's stock yielding 234 kg, compared to 205 kg per cow from the bottom third of those surveyed.

Prys Morgan, HCC's industry development manager, said: "This new survey underlines the importance of knowing your costs of production to determine where money can be saved with changes in agricultural support payments on the horizon.

"It is now vital that producers consider efficiencies in cost savings and in production levels and to seek to step up this activity if they are still showing too high a cost base."

The survey demonstrates the performance of the Welsh beef industry is influenced by a number of factors - among them management, market forces, genetics, climate and farm type, Morgan said, adding: "The most powerful way to improve the industry in the short and medium term is to improve the technical performance of Welsh cattle.

"The Welsh Beef Quality Improvement Project, managed by HCC aims to address these technical aspects by training producers in modern approaches to breed improvement, health management and environmental management."

The survey shows that less money is being generated amongst the bottom third, but also that their costs are much higher in all areas.

The data was collected by Farm Business Survey, University of Wales Aberystwyth, on behalf of the Farming Connect Sheep and Beef Development Programme. The data relates to the 2005/2006 financial year and is based on 69 sucker herds.

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