In the suckler beef sector much attention is given to herd improvement and producers are constantly trying to fine-tune the genetics of their herd in order to create cows with the desired traits for producing top-quality calves.
With this in mind, it would be easy to discount the vital role which the value of the cull cow plays in an overall farm enterprise profitability. Whether it is for cows that fall short of breeding expectations at an early age or those which have reached an age well into double digits the value obtained from the market place should not be overlooked.
A constant feature of the market is that Limousin bred cull cows are always well received by ringside buyers at auction markets across Northern Ireland, and as such are regularly topping the trade. With demand for manufacturing beef strong so far in 2018 a quick look at some of the key markets selling cull cows in recent weeks provides evidence of this firmness, despite numbers coming forward trending up on the year.
At Markethill, the regular Tuesday sale is delivering a strong return for Limousin bred suckler cull cows. At the sale on Saturday 26 June a Killylea producer topped the trade at £1,535 or 185p/kg with his Limousin cow.
According to reports from the Livestock and Meat Commission in the province, the average for first quality beef cows in Northern Ireland in week ended 23 June was 180p/kg, second quality traded at an average of 145p/kg. A similar trend has been evident at Omagh where a Limousin cow recently topped the trade at £1,654 or 188p/kg, again ahead of national averages. At Clogher, Limousin cows approaching 10-years of age are still very much in demand, regularly being knocked down over the £1,000 per head mark.
The cull cow trade generally follows a seasonal path, with prices historically strengthening in the early part of the year and easing throughout the autumn and there is no doubt that to make best use of this valuable resource producers ought to consider their marketing strategy.
Market timing can sometimes be difficult to gauge and even the best decisions can vary from year to year because prices can be unpredictable. The culling of suckler cows and replacing them with young productive heifers is a hugely important aspect of suckler herd management and earnings from the sale of cull cows make a major contribution to cash flow on many suckler farms.
What is clear is that with longevity and high residual value Limousin females make a solid contribution to the financial position of many suckler beef producers.