Know your market specifications

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A sound knowledge of the specification requirements for particular markets is fundamental to the development of production pathways for your herd type or genetics.

Well-defined specifications have existed for many years for Australian cattle targeted at particular market endpoints with values outside these ranges attracting discounts from processors. The primary carcase parameters have been hot carcase weight (HCW), age (teeth) and P8 fat depth.

Other carcase parameters include meat and fat colour, bruising and butt profile. Meat quality is becoming an increasingly important issue for Australian beef producers in meeting more stringent and changing market specifications.

The development of the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading system has shown that domestic consumers are able to discriminate between beef of differing eating qualities and that they are willing to pay a premium for higher quality beef.

Intramuscular fat (IMF) has been shown to be positively correlated with improved eating quality and minimum IMF% (as assessed by marbling) is now included in some high quality domestic markets. Therefore, producers now have options to produce cattle with a focus on carcase yield, IMF, or both.

Use market intelligence to understand market specifications

The way to understand market specifications and the most cost effective marketing options for your beef enterprise is through being well informed. Use market intelligence to implement a continuous improvement system by responding to price and market signals.

The National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) independently collects market data from the key auction and direct markets, in addition to slaughter statistics, wholesale, skin and hide prices. NRLS produces reports including:

  • up-to-date livestock market data collected from major prime and store markets
  • direct sales and wholesale meat market data
  • regular weekly summaries
  • slaughter statistics
  • skin and hide prices.

By following markets and keeping good records of your sales, you may discern gradual trends and market shifts, thus enabling long-term planning to maximise returns from livestock production.

You should track the factors influencing prices over time, not just current prices, to identify long term trends and aid decision making.

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