At the minute, beef prices are nothing to write home about. However, it must be noted that – at this time – processors’ quotes are higher than during the corresponding period in 2016.

Although finishing cattle during the winter period is a costly process, this year there is an increased demand for ‘in-spec’ stock. This is evident from the increased prices offered by procurement managers as they try and secure supplies.

With the increase in demand and improved prices, more farmers may decide to finish animals during the most expensive part of the year.

On these farms, winter-finishing is in full swing and farmers need to be assessing animals that are coming close to slaughter.

The cost of finishing rations are expensive, and therefore the key to running a profitable winter-finishing programme is efficiency. The diet of the animal also plays an important role in a successful system.

Also Read: Ration selection: Are your finishing cattle on the correct diet?

Margins are already extremely tight and without careful management and assessment, beef-finishing systems become inefficient and any hope of securing a profit is lost.

Regularly weighing finishing cattle is extremely important to determine slaughter date. According to Teagasc’s Gordon Peppard, a farmer cannot manage what he/she does not measure.

When a finishing animal’s daily weight gain starts to decrease, this is an indication that the animal is coming near slaughter.

Fat covers

In the case of steers and heifers, animals should be assessed around the tail, rib and loin. Liaising with your factory and comparing your results with actual results will help for future assessments – practice makes perfect.


In the case of bulls, measuring fat cover can be a little more difficult. The areas that need to be assessed are: the topline or back of the animal; the scrotum area (it should be well filled); the flank; and the brisket.

In terms of profitability, it is very important to draft animals as they become fit for slaughter. It is also important to remember, animals that are ‘out of spec’ will be penalised by the factories.

If this is the case, the farmer will lose any bonuses and profit margins will become even tighter.