I recently sent some young bulls to the meat factory, and I got a shock when the cheque came back.

To my surprise, they have started to discount the price paid for young bulls when compared to steers and heifers.

I have been finishing most of my male cattle as young bulls for a long number of years.

When I switched from steers to young bulls, my factory agent assured me there was no issue with young bulls as long as they were under 16 months of age.

I was happy to make the switch and I have never looked back – until now.

A few years ago, some factories started trying to pay less for young bulls, but the business I supply didn’t follow that trend.

I am very disappointed that they seem to have changed their mind.

But as well as being disappointed, I cannot really understand what they are thinking.

Surely young bulls tick all the boxes. They are the most efficient way of producing beef and are, by far, the best converters of feed. As a result, the beef has the lowest carbon footprint.

So, what is the problem?

Maybe someone thinks that the beef isn’t as good, but nothing could be further from the truth.

So long as the bulls are young and have an adequate covering of fat, then there should be no reason for meat factories to pay less than they do for steers and heifers (unless they just want cheaper cattle from the farmer).


When I started finishing my male calves as young bulls it was a learning curve. I initially struggled to get them finished at 16 months, but I have worked hard at it.

I have tried to use the best genetics and also improve my feeding management.

The improvement I have made in the carbon footprint of my beef is massive

At the start, it was a finishing diet of straw and ad-lib meal but that has changed. I now aim to make some really good silage for bulls and feed a lot less meal.

I am currently getting the animals ready for the factory at 14 months or less, while using less meal than when I was finishing steers at almost 24 months.

The improvement I have made in the carbon footprint of my beef is massive.

Meat factories and supermarkets are all trying to look good in the global warming debate, but penalising the young bull just smacks of double standards.

I try to produce the most environmentally efficient beef that I can and instead of being rewarded, I am being penalised.

Message to farmers

Farmers need to get consistent signals from both Government and industry about the way forward.

We now have the new beef carbon reduction scheme payment which is delivering a message from the powers that be that we must focus on efficient beef production with a lower carbon footprint.

While I think the whole scheme leaves a lot to be desired (and will probably end up rewarding the wrong people) it is sending a positive signal to farmers.

Up to now, I was getting similar signals from the meat industry, so why the change?

They seem to have taken us down a road and then decided to penalise us for following them. It all makes no sense to me.

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