80% of Hereford Heifers & 64% of Hereford Bullocks slaughtered off grass.

There was positive news for the Herefords last week after the Irish Farmers Journal published the current data from their THRIVE – Dairy Calf to Beef Programme in their newspaper dated 31st October 2020.


The Irish Farmers Journal Thrive – Dairy Calf to beef Programme aims to demonstrate best practice for producing dairy calf to beef calves through the use of higher genetic merit AI sired beef calves along with focusing on a high level of efficiency in on farm nutrition and animal health.

The demonstration farm is located in Cashel, Co. Tipperary,  with 140 calves 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 and the target for bullocks is to slaughter at 300kgs, at 19 months of ages also. The core aim on the farm 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. There have currently been 64 (2019 born) cattle slaughtered from the group to date.

There are four breeds in the trial; Hereford, Angus, Limousin & Belgian Blue.

Finishing Period

To date, non of the Belgian blues have been drafted for slaughter and are in fact being housed early to try to get them finished. This is compared to 80% of the Hereford heifers which have already been slaughtered off grass along with 64% of Hereford bullocks having been finished off grass also.

The farm has paid €100/head more for Belgian blue calves compared to Hereford-sired calves.

Meal was introduced to finishing stock at grass from 1st August to heifers over 470kgs and bullocks over 490kgs only. The rest began meal feeding on 9th September. A four way mix is being fed across the board incorporating; barley, maize, soya hulls and distillers. The mix has an energy value of 0.95 UFL and a protein content of 12%. Heifers are being fed 3kg/day and bullocks are being fed 4kg/day.

Meal intake is lowest for the Hereford heifers at an average of 171kgs. Hereford bulls are also at the lowest end of the scale with 233kgs compared to Angus and Limousin.

Carcase Performance

The average slaughter weight for Hereford heifers was 532kgs with the average price being paid of €3.82/kg after a base price of €3.65/kg, quality assurance bonus of €0.20/kg and the Irish Hereford Prime breed bonus of €0.10/kg also. This average price was the highest average price paid for heifers across the three breeds. This translates to a carcase value of €1038 after a kill out percentage of 51.1%.

The average carcase weight for Hereford bullocks was 316kg. The base price for all bullocks was €3.60/kg and after the Quality assurance bonus of €0.19/kg and the Irish Hereford Prime breed bonus of €0.10/kg, the average price paid for Hereford bullocks was €3.74/kg, leaving an average carcase value of €1182. The Kill out percentage was 52.2%. The Hereford bullocks were also the best performing breed at finishing off grass, achieving over 1.04kg/day.

It is well known that Herefords are a sustainable choice; being an early maturing breed, they are much easier & quicker finished for slaughter off grass, without much extra feed needed and thus saving money. These results are the proof of the pudding and show just how well Hereford cattle are suited to a low cost, grass based system.

The Society are looking forward to the next round of results from this trial & value the research being carried out.

***All findings in this report are copied form the Irish Farmers Journal Newspaper, Article on page 33, dated 31st October 2020***

Picture credit: Jeff Harvey

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