The present innovative practice has been published by the Portuguese newspaper Pùblico:
Diversification of marketing channels may reduce the associated risk in beef finisher farms and improve financial returns. Some relevant factors able to improve financial results and reduce risk on beef finisher farms are:
1. the effort to improve animal health on the farm
2. use a higher feed efficiency through own feed industry at the farm
3. increase exports in order to diversify marketing channels
4. the positive impact on prices achieved through market diversification
Cattle is bought weighing around 220 kilos and sold four months later with a weight ranging between 350 and 450 kilos. If exported, the animals still spend about two months in “finishing” in the destination countries before being slaughtered. In a normal health condition, a male bovine can gain up to 1.4 kg per day. A female can grow 1.1 kg a day.
The efficiency of the feeding given to the animals and the quality of their health condition, are key elements for the business success. For this purpose, Monte do Pasto has a feed factory in its facilities, which produces 34 thousand tons per year from corn, barley, soy derivatives and straw - essential for the digestion of animals.
The main challenge was that poor health condition or deficient feeding of bulls and heifers on beef finisher farms can be a significant problem that impairs the profitability of the farm. The efficiency of the feeding given to the animals and the quality of their health condition, are key elements for the business success. For this purpose, Monte do Pasto has a feed factory in its facilities, which produces 34 thousand tons per year from corn, barley, soy derivatives and straw - essential for the digestion of animals.
What were the main bottlenecks? Due to the relatively small available information we cannot in detail answer to this. Nevertheless the live animals transport conditions until their market destination is a big challenge as well as all the sanitary and healt conditions of the animals before and after arriving their final destination. Often the animals still spend about two months in “finishing” in the destination countries before being slaughtered therefore these conditions are highly relevant. Assuring all of them is highly dependent on a proper feeding.
There are some risks induced by this innovation: exporting live animals requires that animal welfare is ensured throughout the whole export circuit, and particularly demanding are the transport rules required. Hence risks at this stage must be minimized as well as the risk of animals adaptation in the final export destination.
Three lessons can be learned from this innovation:
1. A high awareness of beef finisher farmers to take account of the factors that potentially improve health and corporal conditions of their beef cattle.
2. A proper feeding is a pre-requisite to minimise risks in terms of a good animal health condition and animals' value added.
3. The recommended practices for animals transportation, good sanitary condition and feed efficiency could be integrated into a comprehensive animal health programme for beef finishers by beef cattle farmers associations, advisors and consultants, and public animal health services in the different Member States of the EU.
The major impacts in the field of socio-economic resilience, animal health and welfare and production efficiency are:
1. High on-farm losses may reduce significantly the financial returns of beef finisher farms
2. The identified practices, namely the attempt to have a good animal health on the farm and the use of a higher feed efficiency through own feed industry at the farm, are identified as key factors to improve the welfare of beef cattle. Though not all farms can have their own feed unit, it is important to be aware of such practices and this can be shared by advisors with their clients and put into practice.
3. The use of a higher feed efficiency through own feed industry at the farm can have an important impact on production efficiency.
Author: Magda Fontes - FMV