Better Farm Programme bull rearers show the way to go for greater beef profits
There was a lot of bull talk at last week's Irish Grassland Association (IGA) beef conference and farm visits. First up with bulls was Dermot O'Connor, Carlow, member of the Better Farm Programme.
He spoke of augmenting his suckler herd with a dairy bull calf-to-beef enterprise in his efforts to hit a gross margin of €1,000/ha.
He opted for dairy bulls rather than extra sucklers on the basis of the investment cost, higher budgeted return and personal preference.
Next up was winter finisher Eamonn Power from Clonmel. He has switched from steer finishing to finishing weanling suckler bulls. Even with bulls, Eamonn needs a beef price of 371c/kg (£1.32/lb) next spring to cover the dearer meals and dearer weanlings. His weanling price budget is set at about €1.80/kg liveweight. Belgian Blue weanlings are excluded.
Finally, there was the farm visit to the father and son team of John and Paul Duggan in Portlaw, Co Waterford. Here we saw choice export-quality suckled bulls. John Duggan is an agent for Dawn Meats but his own stock are more likely to be shipped live as weanling bulls and heifers.
Belgian Blue is the sire of choice for the Duggans. They are moving towards three-quarter Limousin dams, although it was interesting to see that most of the dams of the top calves were black Limousin-cross Friesians.
It's not a coincidence that these farmers are into bull production. The IGA seeks out the beef enterprises which are profitable. With their extra growth potential and efficiency, bulls offer a better chance of making profit from beef.
In the current Irish factory cattle kill, one male animal in five is a young bull. The trend towards rearing bulls on Irish farms is on the up.