Housing is underway on suckler farms, which means it is an ideal time to offload cull cows.
Excellent grazing conditions in September mean that most culls are in good condition, which will increase sale options.
For those selling in marts, the trade for cull cows is extremely strong. Heavy fleshed continental types are generally making between 180p to 200p/kg, with exceptional types achieving up to 220p/kg.
Older cows and those with lower conformation may be better off finished on-farm
Those suited to a short intensive period are making around 150p to 170p/kg, while cows with a large dairy influence are selling from 130p to 140p/kg.
According to mart managers, buyers are particularly keen to secure larger framed continental cross cows, as well as younger animals.
Older cows and those with lower conformation may be better off finished on-farm.
Before deciding on how to offload cull cows, it is worthwhile to complete a simple budget to determine which outlet will provide the best return.
The first option is to take these cows to the mart now
In our example, a farm has 100% beef-bred cows, which are 700kg liveweight at housing and require a short feeding period to finish.
The first option is to take these cows to the mart now. Assuming they make 160p/kg, sale value comes to an average of £1,120.
The second option is to finish them after 40 days of intensive feeding. Animals are offered 8kg/day of ration (£265/t) and 20kg/day of good-quality silage (£20/t). This brings feed costs to £100.
Weight gain averages 1kg/day, bringing the final liveweight to 740kg. At 53% kill-out, carcase weight averages 392kg.
After deducting finishing costs, there is a margin of just over £100 per head to be had
Assuming a beef price of 340p/kg, it is a total value per head of £1,332.
After deducting finishing costs, there is a margin of just over £100 per head to be had. At a finished price of 330p/kg, the margin is still over £60.
The third option is to take the cows to the mart after the 40 day feeding period. Assuming a mart price of 180p/kg, a 740kg cow is also worth £1,332. If cows can command a price above 180p/kg, then offloading live is the best outlet.