A few weeks ago, I penned an article on value addition strategies for cattle keepers. A particularly keen reader noticed that I was biased towards dairy production and requested I also address beef production specifically marketing strategies.
Get to know market
Before you get into beef production you must know your market. Knowing your market entails knowing its location — transport cost to a butcher man, to a school or at a certain slaughter house. Know what the market requires (preferences) and know when it peaks that is when is demand likely to be higher or lower. By this I mean produce for the market.
Most importantly know the beef breeds – I recommend Boran, Shaiwals and Fleckvieh and their crosses based their quick maturity and ability to adapt to arid and semi arid lands and resistance to tick-borne diseases. When sourcing for these bull calves consider age. If you get calves below two months you need to have enough milk to feed them. Bull calves are in most instances sold off immediately especially in dairy farms which can act as a good and affordable source for foundation stock. There are key parameters you need to know about your beef animal and they relate to weight which is a sum total of the meat and the bones. Live weight is the number of kilos a living animal has. You can easily measure using a weighing band. This is a calibrated band that is passed around the chest area and gives a close estimate of the live weight. The carcass weight/dead weight or dressed weight is another important measure and this is calculated by multiplying the live weight by the dressing percentage and dividing that by 100.
Carcass weight is what remains after the internal organs (offal), the lower legs, head, skin and tail have been removed from an animal. This is the meat that the butchery will display for sale.
The dressing percentage is calculated by dividing the carcass weight with the live weight and multiplying by 100 to yield a percentage. It is normally approximated at 63 per cent but may vary according to the sex, age, breed and fatness of the animal. So if your cow weights 350 kgs live weight, carcass weight will be 220.5 kilos.
The farmer is always a loser whenever he decides to sale his beef animal through a middleman or broker. Imagine you have spent more than a year with your beef animal; feeding it and treating it then a man comes who spends a day or two with the animals but makers more profits from it. Brokers exploit farmer’s ignorance of the value of their animal and the prevailing market prices.
If you must sell through a middleman; be kind to yourself and minimise exploitation. There are several ways of doing this. One is, know your animal and the approximate price. Beef animals selling point is the live weight. Second, you can bypass the middleman by forming a group of several beef farmers. There is always strength in numbers. As a group, you hire a vehicle and transport your animals to the market and bargain for a better price even from the middlemen. Still as a group, you can collectively take an order and in so doing get a better price for your livestock.
You will get better prices if you sell your animal when the demand for meat is high. This can be for example festive seasons when consumers buying power is high. Or for a season that meat supply is likely to be low.
I know of some farmers who are already into organic beef production in Kenya. Veal production is another beef production that farmers can use to add value to their meat. Veal refers to the soft tender meat got from calves killed before weaning and that have been fed on milk alone. Veal production nonetheless requires good planning to satisfy the veal market.
Simple processing like mincing the meat can help you get more from a kilo of meat or applying the beef cut concept in marketing beef if you are running butchery so that you package T-bone, Rib eye and strip steaks of meat.
(The writer was the Vet of the Year 2016 and works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council – KENTTEC, [email protected])