Coleraine-based WD Meats hosted a ‘walk-the-line’ event for farmer-suppliers this week. The demonstration, which allowed the visitors to assess cattle on-the-hoof and on-the-hook, was organised in association with the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

"We started off in the lairage, where six cattle had been separated out for inspection,” said Andrew Turtle, a member of the WD Meats procurement team.

“The animals were a mixed bag, both in terms of their breeding and liveweights.

At the outset, we asked the farmers to predict how the cattle might kill-out in terms of their final carcase weights and classification grades.

The farmers then followed the cattle through the various stages of processing, ending up in the chill, where the resulting carcases were hung up.

“We then took them through the boning hall to let them see the attention to detail that is required in complying with our supermarket supply contracts,” said Turtle.

At the end of the visit, the farmers were supplied with the actual kill weights and classification grades of the six live animals they had initially inspected. Weights ranged from 320kg to 400kg.

“The classification grades were in the range O+2 to U3,” said Turtle.

“As it turned out, most of the farmers were pretty close with their initial predictions.”

Turtle said that WD Meats is very keen to communicate the need for cattle to be in-spec, so as to comply with the requirements laid down by the UK supermarkets.

“This means they must kill-out between 280kg and 380kg and grade-out between O+2 and U4.

“We, particularly, don’t want over-fat animals. It takes a lot of money to put fat on a beast. So it makes no sense at all for farmers to supply animals that are over-finished.

"In such circumstances, producers are losing out - both in terms of the price they get and the input costs they incur.”

LMC economist Seamus McMenamin was part of the visiting group. He highlighted the value of the ‘walk the line’ event.

“It’s important for beef finishers to have a good idea of how their cattle will kill-out, once they go to the factory,” he said.

“Farmers must produce cattle that comply with the meat factories’ commercial requirements. It is also crucially important that all cattle presented for slaughter are Farm Quality Assured.

“Certification is delivering added value to producers of between £100 and £150 per accredited beef animal."