During the visit the group were able to hear about current and future beef markets and the importance of a consistent supply of in spec beef cattle that can maximise the return to farmers. As a practical demonstration the group were able to grade live cattle and see how the carcase grades matched their predictions for weight, carcase conformation and fat class. Liam McCarthy, Supply Chain manager ABP, outlined that for cattle to maximise their value they have to be under 30 months of age for steers and heifers, farm quality assured, carcase weight between 270 and 400 kg and have a maximum of 4 moves. This was further reinforced as the group toured the retail packing department and were shown beef cuts from large carcases over 400 kg which weren’t suitable for premium supermarket pre-packs.
Following the tour of the beef processing and retail production lines, Arthur Callaghan, NI Blade farming co-ordinator ABP, gave an outline of the Blade farming scheme and highlighted opportunities for beef finishers to link with Blade calf rearing units.
The success and efficiencies of the farmers in the Northern Ireland Suckler Beef Programme was also discussed and it was highlighted that the linkages between farmers, ABP, CAFRE and the Irish Farmers Journal was helping to promote a system of profitable beef production.
The group visit to ABP reinforced the importance of good communication between farmers and processors to ensure the supply of animals that meet market demands and also highlighted that there are opportunities for farmers to get involved with schemes such as the Blade farming scheme to add new enterprises or scale to their existing businesses.