Having slaughtered most of our bulls and heifers in recent weeks, it seems very obvious to me that there is a striking unfairness at play over prices paid for young bulls.
In short, we need a quality payment grid for young bulls, similar to that already operating for heifers and steers.
The factory returns from the cattle that were slaughtered show that whereas there might only be a small difference of say 5c/kg in the base price between bulls and heifers, bulls are only paid on the base price while heifers reached the top levels on the gird, resulting in a very substantial gap in price.
As an actual example, for a U=3= bull weighing 401kg compared to a U+3= heifer weighing 396kg, the difference was almost €120 in favour of the heifer. It's important to stress that these were cohort animals, all under 20 months.
I know the IFA took a lot of stick at the time of the introduction of the grid, and now that the dust has settled on that argument I think most people will agree that it has been good for beef farmers by adding value to quality in-spec animals. Now we need to move that on and introduce a quality payment system for young bulls as well.
Meanwhile, out on the land, grass growth has been non-existent and we went from a surplus of grass to a deficit in a very short space of time.
We have introduced silage to three groups of cows and calves in recent weeks in an attempt to slow the rotation.
Not an ideal situation but, on the bright side, it has meant that we have used all the round bales that were left over, though this week we have started into some of the pit silage that was left over and the forecast tells us that we are going to have this weather for another while.
So it's back to daily feeding. It's a two-man job to feed the cows silage in the field. The system we use is that we take down the silage feeder to the cows full of silage, drop it in the field and pick up the empty one from the previous day. So, as you can well imagine, it's very difficult to get into the field with the cows all crowding around the gate anxious to escape ... or just get into fresh grass.
We have had to treat a few calves for chills and one particular calf came down with pneumonia and, at this stage, it looks like he's not going to make it.
Although the calves have been out for two months by now, as of yet they haven't been treated for worms, something I would like to do as soon as the weather settles. I feel that both cows and calves are having a difficult enough time at the moment without the added stress of bringing them into the yard.
It looks like our plans to cut early silage have gone out the window since there is very little growth evident on the silage ground. The spring barley has been top-dressed with Super-Net at this stage, bringing the nitrogen up to a total of 110 units per acre.
We recently went to see our accountant to discuss last year's accounts and while our level of production from the farm has been steadily increasing, unfortunately the cost of that production has increased even more.
The big three costs for us are feed, fertiliser and contracting. We need to look at ways of reducing these without compromising our production. We have sown extra spring barley this year so at least we shouldn't run out of home-grown feed, which should be a help.
We are buying replacement heifers at the moment. Although they won't be bred until October, I always like to buy them at this time of year so they have the whole summer to settle and acclimatise to the farm.
Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois firstname.lastname@example.org