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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘We are slaughtering animals at the same weight, a lot younger, with less feed’ – Teagasc beef leader

According to Dr. Paul Crosson, beef enterprise leader at Teagasc Grange, improvements in life-weight performance predominately manifest themselves as early slaughter ages.

He presented findings from his paper at the state agency’s national beef conference at the Shearwater Hotel in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, on Tuesday, December 13th, 2022.

He referenced data collated by Teagasc Grange, which looks at a comparison in slaughter age, from 2012-2021, among heifers (suckler-beef and dairy-beef), steers (suckler-beef and dairy-beef) and young bulls (dairy beef).

The only animals with no slaughter age reduction were suckler-beef heifers, which rose from 25.1 months in 2012 to 25.5 months in 2021.

The beef enterprise leader commented that “we need to look at this closer, and I suspect there might be some interaction with first-calving heifers on the suckler beef side”.

Slaughtering animals younger

Dairy-beef bred bulls yielded the smallest changes, from 20.1 months in 2012 to 20.0 months in 2021.

However, dairy-beef bulls showed the greatest reduction from 29.7 months in 2017 to 26.2 months last year.

Speaking about the results overall, he told the conference: “We should recognise this real substantial progress in terms of live-weight performance and slaughter age that has been made as an industry and farm level.”

“Importantly, this, in almost all categories, has come with no reduction in carcass weight or loss of output from these animals. In fact, in a lot of cases, we have seen improvements in carcass weight.”

He then outlined the following carcass weight changes:

  • Suckler-beef heifers: +19kgs;
  • Dairy-beef heifers: No change;
  • Suckler-beef steers: +3kgs;
  • Dairy-beef steers: 13kgs lighter;
  • Suckler-beef young bulls: No change;
  • Dairy-beef young bulls: +1kg.

Slaughter Age

Impacts: Slaughtering cattle younger

He then highlighted that slaughtering cattle at an earlier age, results in less feeding, lower GHG emissions, higher profits and savings in terms of facilities and labour.

  • Feed: “We are slaughtering animals at the same weight, a lot younger, with less feed.”
  • Facilities and labour: “In some cases, animals do not need to go back into the shed again for a subsequent winter. In other cases, they do not need to go back to pasture, or they are slaughtered earlier off pasture or earlier out of the shed.”
  • Lower GHG emissions: Exporting 90% of beef – Customers asking what action Ireland is undertaking to reduce carbon footprint. “From a customer perspective, we have to show improvements, and I think we have a really good story to tell in that regard.”
  • Profit: “Ultimately, it is about profitability. When you slaughter earlier, particuarly where you retain carcass weight, you will drive profitability at farm level,” he concluded.

Previous article on daily weight gain performance: how Irish cattle are squaring up

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