DIFFERENCES of up to $244 in the true value of animals in a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) steer trial have highlighted the benefits of a performance-based payment system. MLA beef services general manager John Webster said the tools were now available for industry to adopt payment systems based on saleable meat yield, eating quality and hide value. Video imaging analysis < VIAscan < was used to measure saleable meat yield of the carcases while the beef grading scheme Meat Standards Australia (MSA) was used to assess the eating quality of the beef. "We must adopt these tools if we are to remain competitive. The averaging system we have in place now, on average, does work. But what it means is that 50 per cent of producers are subsidising the other half," Mr Webster said. The results of the MLA steer performance-based payment steer trial were presented to about 400 producers at a forum in Albury last week, prior to the company's inaugural annual general meeting. In the light domestic steer section < carcase weight 200-259kg < there was a $176 difference between the highest value and lowest value steer at identical Hot Standard Carcase Weight. Saleable meat yield varied from 66pc to 71pc with each per cent representing $5.60/head. Differences in eating quality were huge, with up to $120 difference in value between carcases of similar weight and yield. Similarly there was up to $30/head difference in hide value. "The combined effect of this performance-based payment system is huge < $244 between the highest and lowest value steer in the trial," Mr Webster said.