Farmers are being encouraged to choose breeds which thrive on grass-based systems as a means of protecting their businesses against volatile input costs.
The advice from Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society CEO, Robert Gilchrist, comes as farmers turn their attention to grass ahead of spring turnout.
“Although farmers are enjoying improved farmgate prices, the continued rise in input costs continues to be a concern for producers the length and breadth of the UK,” says Mr Gilchrist.
“A move towards native breeds, such as Aberdeen-Angus, can help farmers manage the volatility of input prices, while offering numerous added benefits.”
He says the breed’s ability to thrive on grass and forage-based systems makes it an attractive option for farmers wishing to reduce the use of concentrate feeds on their farms – and in turn boost their sustainability.
“By introducing managed grazing strategies and taking a cut of silage earlier to improve forage quality, farmers can maximise the potential of grass in finishing systems, and potentially eliminate the need for costly concentrate feeds,” adds Mr Gilchrist.
“This will not only save costs financially, but also environmentally as less inputs will be required to finish the cattle.”
He says results from surveys by the NFU and NFU Scotland (NFUS), published earlier this year, suggest many farmers are considering waving goodbye to their cows.
The NFU survey reported that 40% of cattle keepers in England and Wales plan to reduce the size of their herds by almost 10% in the year ahead, while the NFUS survey found the size of the average suckler herd in Scotland has reduced by 4% to 143 and 8% of farmers are planning to get out of beef production.
“I’d continue to urge these farmers to consider the benefits of a native breed like Aberdeen-Angus, and its ability to thrive on grass, before deciding to leave the industry,” adds Mr Gilchrist.
“As we turn our focus to grass and spring turnout, let’s not forget that native breeds have a fantastic ability to turn a low-cost feed, in the form of grass, into a high-value product that commands an attractive market premium – they are ideal for producing beef that’s fit for the future.”