One size fits all farming advice not ideal
As the dark evenings close in, most of my finished cattle have been sold and a clearer picture is emerging as to how things have gone this year. This year's good growth conditions have resulted in an increase in carcase weights of my mostly Friesian cattle and fat scores have also improved.
However grades have been disappointing. While the number of Ps are reduced, they are still far too high for my liking. I had hoped that the improved fat score this year would have lifted more of them into Os. However, the one redeeming factor is that the Ps are predominantly P+ and, with the grid system, the difference between an O- and P+ is in fact very little.
This situation is not going to improve in the foreseeable future as it seems that the ongoing advice to the dairy sector takes no account of the value of its store cattle by-product. Indeed, it appears that the exact opposite seems to be the case with the introduction of more exotic dairy cross breeds.
This is difficult to understand as there is so much emphasis currently being placed, by everyone including our minister, on the tremendous value of beef exports to the Irish economy.
The reality on the ground is that, in spite of all this hype and rhetoric, the origin and quality of up to half of our current beef kill is being ignored.
While the trading margin is of utmost importance, I believe that, from an income point of view, an equally important issue is the cost of production.
Anyone looking at the current income figures for cattle farmers in this year's Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) could only be shocked and dismayed. These figures show an industry in absolute turmoil, with the average income at a disastrous €268/ha. What this means is that you would need a 240ac farm to earn just €26,000.