Ask Fred – Fred’ll Fix it is the monthly advice page published in the Meat Trades Journal Extra.
May’s page of answers are by Fred A’Court, who was editor of the MTJ for more than 15 years. He deals with questions and practical answers to butchers and retail operators facing “every-day issues.” We extract some material from his answer to DW: “I finish beef cattle but am looking to cut my overheads. What should I look at?”
Fred weighs in with a few tricks of the trade. “While you should still aim to produce the best possible animal you can, this does not necessarily mean producing one at the top end of the specification given. Finishing a couple of weeks early can produce significant savings. The resulting carcases may not win prizes, but they will still be acceptable to the customer,” Fred writes.
He makes some interesting observations on the costs of animal feed – “one of your biggest costs”. He says: “The cheapest feed does not necessarily mean the most cost-effective, but neither does the most expensive. It might be worth having a chat with an animal nutritionist or your vet to see if there is a cheaper alternative to what you currently use that is as nutritious. Some producers get excellent results by mixing products such as brewers’ grains with their normal feed. I know one who uses Rice Krispies as a mixer that he buys wholesale from a cash-and-carry”.
Finally Fred has a look at bedding. He writes: “The cost of straw jumped considerably to around £75.00 a tonne a few months ago. Wood chip can be a useful alternative and has been the subject of much research in Wales. Timber costs about £20.00 a tonne to buy and you may have plentiful free supplies locally, although chipping it can be costly. Bedding wood chip needs careful handling and it can be bulky to store in quantity so investigate the pros and cons of using it first. At about £15 a tonne, paper mulch is even cheaper to use than wood chip.”
Fred ends with good advice on health and the associated factors of health and welfare. “There is one area you should not economize on and that is the animal health plan for your herd. Prevention of ill-health is always cheaper than cure". It’s a pity that truism needs repetition in an industry of killing and butchery.