Exceptional summer thrive has boosted this beef farmer's returns

Pic Steve Humphreys
Pic Steve Humphreys
Pictured at the careers open day in the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick are John Davern, machinery tutor, Brendan Heelan, Bercar Welding Supplies Ltd, Limerick, (sponsor), student Jack Whelan, Foukesmills, Co. Wexford, winner of the Advanced Certificate in Agricultural Mechanisation best fabrication award with his silage fork loader & Tadhg Brosnan, machinery lecturer. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

John Heney

It looks as if my 2017 returns are turning out to be very similar to last year's which is good news as 2016 was one of the best thriving years I have ever experienced.

Average carcase weights of cattle sold are running about 5kg ahead of last year, but with two slightly lighter loads of cattle still to go I expect to finish very close to last year's average weight of around 331 kg.

In spite of the recent drop in price, the average return per kilo appears to be still a few cents ahead of last year, but with some plainer cattle still to go, this average may drop somewhat.

The moment of truth for seven very plain stores I bought this time last year arrived a few weeks ago when I sent four of them off as part of a load to the factory.

I have always felt that trying to make a living fattening cattle is a serious gamble, so when I bought these seven cattle I took a calculated gamble that they might improve.

While they have grown into very big cattle, unfortunately their conformation has shown no improvement at all.

I was seriously worried all summer at how badly they might actually kill-out,

So I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw their returns.

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Their carcase weights averaged just over 320 kg and while grades were very poor, their excellent carcase weights and low buying-in price meant that in spite of all my concerns, they returned close to the same margin as the rest of my cattle.

In spite of this I will not be repeating the exercise.

Were it not for the excellent thrive this summer I believe I would have been in real trouble and faced with the prospect of again having to look at them every day for another 12 months.

It's by our mistakes we learn so no matter how great a bargain they may appear, I hope not to buy any more cattle like these in the foreseeable future as I may not be as lucky the next time.

Grass-wise, I'm in a fairly happy place.

I have started to take out paddocks in my eight paddock system and will continue to do so until it is all grazed out.

I still have some areas of my farm not using this system and depending on how well the system works, I may extend the system next year.

John Heney is a beef farmer from Kilfeakle, Co Tipperary

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