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Left counting the cost after mystery sudden death of one of my beef bulls


Various coloured cattle in a corregated iron cattle house.

Various coloured cattle in a corregated iron cattle house.

Getty Images

Photo: Alf Harvey.

Photo: Alf Harvey.

Alf Harvey


Various coloured cattle in a corregated iron cattle house.

One morning last week I knew there was something wrong as I entered my beef bulls’ slatted shed. They were all up eating except one lying at the back stone dead.

It was a big shock. I have often lost animals on the farm before but nothing of this value. I entered the pen to investigate further but I could not find any evidence of anything out of the norm that might have led to his untimely end.

This batch of bulls rarely took part in the usual bull activities. Maybe I gave them too much meal the evening before or maybe not enough straw for fibre.

Whatever caused his death it was sudden, but it was a big hit to take and a heavy financial loss.

We sometimes don’t factor in mortality of a certain percentage of stock to the real cost of producing these animals.

The beef bulls in the shed had been thriving and I am aiming to have them finished in June.

They have been a hard batch of cattle to finish with an adequate fat cover for some reason. I think they were stunted before they were housed and it has taken a long time for them to pull out of it.

I was hoping for a decent price rise to compensate for the volume of meal they have eaten.

I haven’t calculated it yet and something tells me I should remain in the dark on this matter for the moment until I have them sold.

They would have definitely made as much as stores, minus the cost of the meal, not to mind the work in feeding them. It is something I will have to bear mind for the future.

The lesson I have learned from the whole episode is to move/sell animals that bit sooner and not be waiting for the heavier carcass.

I think we don’t focus enough on the number of days we have animals on the farm — we are more interested in the end weight.

Aside from my bull’s demise, I doubt I am the only person at this time of the year wishing for rain in one field and sunshine in another.

Grass growth has slowed down around these parts due to the dry and harsh conditions. Cattle are keeping on top of grass, with nothing getting strong or ahead of them.


In saying that, animals are contented and thriving.

It might be a lesson that I should have more of the fertiliser spread earlier, as anything I have spread in the last month has got little or no rain to get it working.

Meanwhile, my Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme certification is due to expire in early July and I got a letter last week saying it will be carried out remotely in the coming weeks.

I have never done something like this before, but it is the times we live in and sure it will be interesting.

It will involve a phone call from the auditor and uploading 18 photos or pieces of information onto your remote audit link.

It is probably going to involve a little more work taking photos and uploading them — I am not sure how user-friendly the site is.

I have completed six on-farm audits; I always prepare for them as best I can, and I don’t see why I can’t do the same for this one as well.

In saying that I will still have to chase down some paperwork to try to get over the line on the first go.

The plan is to use my iPhone for the job as I will be able to access the internet and have the photos of the information on the same device.

Maybe it will be the way of the future regarding inspections.

Indo Farming