Sunday 25 September 2016

Beef: It's been a good month - apart from a plague of midges

John Heney

Published 21/10/2015 | 02:30

Contractor Philip Hughes harvesting maize last Friday for farmer John Brophy near Rathoe, Co Carlow. The crop was sown last April and is yielding 17 tonnes per acre. Photo: Roger Jones.
Contractor Philip Hughes harvesting maize last Friday for farmer John Brophy near Rathoe, Co Carlow. The crop was sown last April and is yielding 17 tonnes per acre. Photo: Roger Jones.

The recent mild weather has been a great help to farming, especially to people like me who are trying to finish cattle on grass. To be able to keep moving cattle onto fresh green grass each week in the middle of October is a great bonus and hopefully this will be reflected in the kill out performance of my last few loads.

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The only downside that I see are the plagues of midges that seem to have appeared out of nowhere. Even the cattle seem to find them aggravating.

At this stage I have more than half of my store cattle bought in and once again they are mostly Friesian crossbred steers from the dairy herd. They are coming in at around the same weight as last year, but their price has increased by about €120.

Quality wise, they appear to be somewhat better than last year's cattle, but this can sometimes change over the year as their dairy background comes more and more to the fore.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Ploughing Championships this year, meeting up with so many friends both old and new. It was a huge event and I must confess that I spent most of the time totally lost. The upside of this was that I ended up visiting very interesting stands that I may have missed otherwise. The sheer size, and the dedication of its organisers and exhibitors, makes it one of the greatest shows on earth.

On the Teagasc stand where I picked up some interesting literature including a copy of the e-Profit Monitor Analysis of Drystock Farms 2014.

We all like to know how our enterprises are doing in comparison to other farms, but it appears that my output per hectare is well below the average. However, my profit per hectare is still above the average figure, probably because of my low level of farm inputs. Unfortunately I'm still a bit off the top 30pc, so it looks as though I have plenty of room to improve.

I am waiting for the results of recent soil tests. Adjustments affecting the amount of land available for my cattle next summer has resulted in a complete review of all my stocking rates. I am also using this opportunity to have a general look at my whole farming system.

I intend to continue with a low-cost system, and any tweaking that necessitates an increase in inputs will have to be fully justified by at least an equivalent increase in the value of my output.

The good weather was also a great help in getting my slurry pits emptied last week. Normally I prefer to spread it in damp weather to get a better response but I won't complain. My only regret was that I had to spread it on a field which could have been grazed for another few weeks. The upside should be some good early grass on this part of my farm next spring.

Getting my winter supply of firewood sorted was another job that I caught up on during the fine spell.

It looks as if the supply of ash trees that fell during the February 2014 storms are going to last for many years to come. I get great satisfaction out of seeing all the blocks split and stacked neatly in the shed.

John Heney farms in Kilfeackle, Co Tipperary

Next up

When I get the result analysis of my soil samples back I'm going to try to come up with an economically effective nutrient plans for the next few years.

Trying to maximise the benefits of the current late growth is turning out to a bit of a juggling act.

On one hand, it means keeping the remaining beef cattle thriving on fresh grass, while at the same time making sure that the newly bought-in store cattle have enough to eat.

Indo Farming

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