Bos indicus beef opportunities

24 Mar, 2004 10:00 PM
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THERE was a myth in WA that cattle with more than 50pc of Bos indicus genetics were unsuited to many major beef markets.

Agriculture Department Derby-based beef research officer Michael Jeffery said none of the major beef export markets such as Korea, Japan, EU, US and Canada had a breed requirement.

He said WA could therefore do well to abandon these sorts of prejudices against Bos indicus cattle, if the state wanted to increase a year-round beef for high value export beef markets.

Mr Jeffery, who addressed a Beef Year Round Supply workshop at Jurien Bay recently, said the first thing producers and processors had to ask themselves about the breed of the animal was if it would influence their ability to market the animal.

He said meat specifications for the Japanese and Korean markets were carcase composition, weight, age and finish, while meat quality indicators included fat and meat colour, marbling and pH.

Mr Jeffery said bulls and cows sold into the US and Canadian ground beef market had few specifications, but prices varied on carcase weight, finish and occasionally fat and meat colour.

"Although there are some differences in growth, carcase composition and meat parameters between Bos taurus and Bos indicus cattle, they are not important enough to maintain the current level of discrimination against Bos indicus cattle, especially for export markets," he said.

He said there was a 50pc limitation of Bos indicus content for Meat Standards Australia markets due to a perception Bos indicus cattle are tougher than Bos taurus animals.

Mr Jeffery said major supermarket chains in Australia had concerns about the level of fat cover and trimming associated with high grade Bos indicus cattle, such as the hump in Brahmans.

"But for almost all export markets there is no specification of breed," he said.

He said a Bos indicus was an animal that had more than 75pc of Bos indicus genetics, while Bos taurus included the earlier maturing British and European cattle breeds.

Mr Jeffery said the fact Bos indicus cattle were quicker on their feet gave the impression that they had poor temperaments.

"Temperament is a measure of an animal's response or aggressiveness to a stress, not the speed it travels," he said.

Meanwhile, he said the growth rates of Bos indicus, perceived to be lower than Bos taurus, was similar and in many cases higher for Bos indicus.

"There is as much variation within breeds as there is between breeds," he said.

Mr Jeffery said the Bos indicus cattle tended to mature later at higher weights which made them better suited to heavier weight carcase markets.

He said Bos indicus and Bos taurus crossbreds of 25-75pc of either breed had higher growth rates than pure breeds.

Mr Jeffery said that one of the greatest problems for Bos indicus cattle was the time it took to take them off breeding properties to finishing areas.

He said if cattle could be moved to finishing pastures within the first 12 months, there was generally little difference in time of turn-off, meat quality and returns.

Mr Jeffery said Bos indicus cattle did not handle feedlotting as well as Bos taurus, but there was little difference between the two in growth rates when feeding up to 150 days.

He said some of the high grade Bos indicus cattle might have trouble meeting minimum carcase fat depth requirements for some domestic or lightweight markets.

"For almost all other markets there were few problems in Bos indicus cattle meeting market specifications, as long as they were given appropriate time to gain weight," he said.

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