500 cattle per week target for fast growing retail beef label

Three out of four of the animals for this retail beef success story come from the country’s dairy herds, says Stephen Cadogen.
500 cattle per week target for fast growing retail beef label

The fastest growing retail beef label in Ireland, is the proud claim of the retailers, processors and farmers behind Lidl’s Inisvale Irish Hereford Beef.

This valuable consumer outlet takes 300 cattle per week, and 500 per week is the target set by retailers Lidl, processors Slaney Foods, and the Irish Hereford Breeders Society.

Lidl are delighted with the progress of the product since it was launched in 2012, and they admit they often run out of Hereford beef on their shop shelves before the week is out.

They and their partners believe that this unsatisfied consumer demand can be quickly translated into a trade for 350 cattle per week, and the ultimate aim is 500 per week, as plans to bring the product to more consumers unfold.

More and more of those consumers will be overseas, due to the interest taken by Lidl Europe in the success of the Irish product.

That interest opens the door to exports of Irish Hereford beef to 14 countries in which Lidl operates.

Already, four of the Irish Hereford beef products are selling very well in Denmark, according to Liam Casey, the Lidl Ireland purchaser for food, who personally looks after meat fruit and vegetable purchasing for the chain’s 178 Irish stores.

The products will soon be launched in Lidl’s stores in Finland.

For Liam Casey, the Inisvale Irish Hereford Beef range has been a big success over the past two and a half years.

In 2015, he aims to take this success to the next level, beyond Ireland, in Lidl’s thousands of stores across Europe.

Lidl’s premium Hereford steaks and mince first hit the shop shelves in Ireland in 2012, after Irish Hereford Breeders Society secretary, Larry Feeney, got together with Lidl, and Slaney Foods.

Along the way since 2012, the range was expanded, to include products such as burgers and diced beef.

The Lidl product is processed and boned by Slaney Foods, and then packed and distributed through Slaney’s sister company, Linden Foods in Co Tyrone.

It is dry aged for 14 days “on the bone”.

It is then further matured up to 28 days, for extra tenderness and flavour, and longer lasting freshness.

There is a full range of rib eye, striploin, fillet steaks and mince available.

Rory Fanning, Managing Director of Slaney Foods, has praised the Irish Hereford Breeders Society (IHBS) for successfully taking on the challenge to perform so well in today’s Irish beef industry.

Slaney Foods pays its Hereford farmers a 15c bonus per kg of carcase, for all carcases grading from O minus upwards, and for up to fat score 4 plus.

The Slaney Foods Hereford Bonus is available to all Hereford bullocks and heifers up to the age of 36 months, provided they are not a 2 or a 5 in fat, or a P in conformation.

To qualify for the bonus, animals must be between 250kg and 400kg dead weight, and be quality assured.

According to Larry Feeney, huge work went into improving the genetics of the Hereford breed in Ireland over the past 20 years, and its increasing popularity among farmers is the payoff.

Ten new Hereford bulls were purchased by Irish AI stations in 2014.

There was a significant increase in the use of Hereford bulls in Irish dairy herds in 2014, rising to 111,000 inseminations, from 90,000 in 2013. Use of Hereford bulls in suckler herds in 2014 held steady, at 29,000 insemnations.

As a result, Hereford calves born in 2014 increased from 123,000 to 145,000.

Milk producers are the main source of Irish Hereford calves, generating three out of every four.

Initiatives like Lidl’s Inisvale Irish Hereford Beef range are very encouraging for those who worry about the challenge to find a market space for the projected increase in dairy beef production which will accompany dairy expansion.

The IHBS is now targeting the country’s dairy farmers, who are reducing dairy breeding in their herd. Nationally, over 2013 and 2014, use of dairy bulls fell 4%, while use of beef bulls increased 16.4%.

Improvements in semen sexing are expected to accelerate this trend. If dairy farmers combine sexed semen with the bull star ratings supplied by ICBF, they can play an increasing role in the beef industry, with well-bred, well-conformed animals, which fatten earlier. Four and five-star bulls will leave €200 more profit per beef animal, compared to the average carcase.

And Hereford is being promoted as one of the easy calving breeds with short gestations, which can help dairy farmers to keep their all-important calving interval figures under control.

According to Stephen Conroy, manager of ICBF’s Tully bull performance station, Hereford is one of the lowest of all breeds for calving difficulty, averaging 4.15%.

Mortality at birth is also one of the lowest, at only 1.7%.

At the beef factories, ICBF statistics for 300,000 Hereford carcases showed averages of 310kg, grading O plus, fat score 3 plus.

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