Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Beef: Selling is a weighty issue

John Joyce

John Joyce

Ground and field conditions have improved significantly over the last few weeks, and we have caught up on slurry spreading and ploughing as a result.

Although weather conditions were not brilliant I decided to lower the tanks as much as possible just in case cattle may be housed longer than expected. The fields with the lowest grass covers were targeted.

With the mild weather I should see good results from this spring application of slurry. The remainder of the spring slurry will be spread after the first cut silage.

All the livestock in the sheds appear to be thriving well. Bulls and the beef heifers are now starting to fill out.

The bulls will take another month to have the required fat cover needed to be factory fit, and a bit longer for the lightest pen.

At this time of year I always ask myself the critical question - when do I sell?

Is the correct time to sell a beef animal when it has reached an acceptable weight and level of finish (at which point the valve of weight gained will hopefully be higher than the costs of achieving this weight gain).

Sometimes as farmers I think we get carried away with producing heavier cattle [or carcases] every year to maybe compensate for low cattle prices.

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In the last number winters where I have finished different types of animals with different types of grading systems (bulls, steers, heifers and cows) I have made myself aware that cattle should be sold before the cost of adding the final kilogram of weight equals the sale price of that kilo of beef.

Up to that point, each additional kilogram has a positive value, albeit at a diminishing margin.

I have decided not to finish the bullocks out of the sheds, largely because it would involve pushing them too hard.

They will return to grass in late March and they will still have enough time to be finished before they reach 30 months, even after another summer on the grass. At the moment, they are on 2.5kgs of meal a day and at turnout to grass they should benefit from some compensatory growth.

The suckler cows are in great condition and are on ad lib round bale silage with pre-calver minerals dusted on the silage daily.

The cows are housed on slats, then moved to the calving shed about five to seven days before calving , mainly to give them plenty of time to settle into their new surroundings.

The calving shed is fully equipped with a new calving gate purchased two years ago, which can be accessed from two pens. Since installing the new gate I think it is a must for all suckler farmers.

It is safe for handing or calving the cow or even for giving a calf a suck. The gate should be seen as a safety device for the cow and farmer, as well as the vet.

Also, I have the shed well lit up both inside and out. Again, the lights might cost a few euros to install and run but they provide safer working conditions.

This week I must fix the water tap in the corner of the shed that I disconnected last year because of a leak. The one luxury I don't have is a calving cameras. The farm house is within walking distance of the sheds so it's easy to have a quick look now and again.

The calved cows will remain in a straw bedded house till turnout and will not return to the slats.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary.


Indo Farming