Grass usage key to realising good on-farm profits
A silver tongue on a golden spring were words I remember an elderly uncle of mine use when I was a child to describe the polished rhetoric of people with vested interests. These people usually turned out to be 'experts' or salespeople.
Down through the years, farmers have become well used to being bombarded by these well-paid individuals telling us how things should be done and how their particular product or policy will transform our enterprises into virtual goldmines.
For instance, there was a time when we couldn't put out enough fertiliser -- of course, that was before environmental pollution became a hot issue. I can also remember being advised to remove ditches and hedges to free up more land for production. In our current era of enlightenment, doing something like that could well see you ending up in jail.
Well, every cloud has a silver lining and, because of the historically low margins in the cattle sector, there has been very little incentive over the years to pay much attention to these silver-tongued salespeople with their expensive ideas and more expensive inputs.
I believe the secret of survival in cattle farming is to keep inputs to a bare minimum while managing our farms as best as possible to maximising output. Put simply, it's all about achieving the highest weight gains at the least possible cost.
Personally, I find the main factor which affects weight gain is how well I use the chief natural advantage of my farm -- grass.
I also feel it's very important to work in unison with nature rather than trying to dominate it. The recent phenomenal growth which nature has provided has meant that I got the last of my cattle out to grass on April 18. It's amazing when you see how well the cattle that went out a month earlier have done. What difference an extra few weeks of grass can make at this time of the year.
Overall, the Friesian cattle bought for this year's grazing season appear much better than last year's stock. However, old habits die hard and it's very difficult to resist a bit of 'value', so I must confess that I did buy some plainer cattle simply because of their price. It will be very interesting to see how they fare in comparison with their higher priced companions at the end of the year.