Morrisons back Beef Shorthorn cattle

Mr Brendan Kelly, cattle agent, Caroline Thompson, Morrison's Traditional Beef scheme and Tom McGuigan, N.I. Beef Shorthorn Club Chairman.
Mr Brendan Kelly, cattle agent, Caroline Thompson, Morrison's Traditional Beef scheme and Tom McGuigan, N.I. Beef Shorthorn Club Chairman.

Last week the Northern Ireland Beef Shorthorn Club held an open meeting in Moira for Club members and cattle producers.

Those in attendance were able to hear first hand how the Beef Shorthorn breed can really put pounds into your pocket, with the Traditional Beef scheme through the Morrisons supermarket chain.

Guest speaker was Caroline Thompson from the Traditional Beef scheme at Morrisons and she left the well attended gathering in no doubt that Beef Shorthorn beef was certainly the road to more profit for Northern Ireland suckler farmers.

Morrisons supermarket is the UK’s fourth largest food retailer and their farming operations, partnership in three UK abattoirs and also six Beef finishing units.

Initially these food giants set about trialling different native UK beef breeds before setting their sights on the Beef Shorthorn breed and ultimately the establishment of their Traditional Beef scheme in September 2011.

The facts that set the beef from the Beef Shorthorn breed apart from its contemporaries were the eating quality and flavour that is cherished worldwide and also the consistency from farm to factory to fork that the Beef Shorthorn has excelled in and has seen them become the cornerstone breed, producing 50% of the total for this beef initiative.

Currently the Traditional beef scheme accounts for 10% of the Morrison group total weekly cattle kill which runs at about 16000 traditional breed cattle per annum but the company is so enthusiastic about the quality of the Beef Shorthorn’s performance that it’s long term ambition is to be sourcing 100% Beef Shorthorn cattle for its Traditional Beef scheme.

Currently the Traditional Beef scheme at Morrisons have 200 farmer/producers from across the UK supplying them with their 360 beef cattle per week and the Beef Shorthorn cattle that are going through the Traditional beef scheme are commanding a 30pp/kg bonus while the other native, traditional beef breeds that they are using to supply the remaining 50% production will receive a 10pp/kg bonus.

The native breed cattle for their premium range are managed in a strict, controlled manner, and put onto a 100 day finishing programme consisting of a high starch diet derived from a cereal base to contribute 35% starch on a daily basis.

The traditional breed cattle over the period of the scheme have averaged 334kg at 22 months and have graded 60% R grade or better.

The grading at Woodhead Bros - Morrisons partners in the abattoir business is all done manually and to qualify for the bonus and extra premiums the cattle must be procured before 30 months old.

In finishing Morrisons state that the Beef Shorthorn breed has a worldwide reputation for being renowned grazing cattle, producing long lived productive suckler cows and functional breeding heifers and now with the introduction of their Traditional Beef scheme and the company’s total backing of the Beef Shorthorn breed, farmers and producers across the UK have a premium outlet for their steers and surplus heifers.

They also highlight that the birth registrations of Beef Shorthorn sired calves have risen by 18% nationally and this is a trend that they feel responsible for and very much look forward to this trend continuing to help speed them as a food retailer towards 100% Beef Shorthorn Beef for their Traditional Beef scheme.

The Northern Ireland Beef Shorthorn club would very much like to thank Caroline Thompson from Morrisons, and Mr Brendan Kelly, cattle agent for attending their open meeting and addressing their members.

The Beef Shorthorn Club members are now looking forward to their Annual Calf show today (Saturday, 6th December 2014) in McClelland’s livestock market, Ballymena, at 10.30am where over 40 pedigree calves will be exhibited.