Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Focus on costs shows the way to better finishing

Uncle and nephew William and Kenneth Grant are no strangers to feeding cattle over winter -- between their two farms they finish more than 1,500 cattle every year.

Kenneth, who is based in Cloughjordan, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, concentrates on heifers and aims to kill for around nine months of the year, generally from the first week in November to the start of August.

The heifers are mainly Continentals, although he will also buy good Angus or Whitehead heifers, once they have the good square R to U grade conformation he is looking for.

"I like to buy the hungry ones that I can put flesh on," Kenneth said.

"I buy at the mart at 12-24 months old and keep them for 12 months. They go out on grass if it's there or into the shed otherwise."

The heifers are sent to AIBP in Nenagh when they are fit for slaughter.

His feeding menu consists of grass silage, maize, barley, bread meal, biscuit meal, soya meal, soya hulls and straw.

The majority of ingredients are bought in as straights and mixed in a diet feeder. All of the silage and maize is produced on the farm.

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The diet is assessed every year by two independent nutritionists who are asked for their opinions on what Kenneth should be feeding.

"I wouldn't just use one nutritionist," he said. "I listen to both of them and decide what to use based on that.

"This year is my first time using soyabean. Distillers were too dear at €215-220/t, whereas soyabean cost me €365/t. But I don't have to use one-quarter the amount that I would have to use with distillers."

The cattle are fed a maximum of 8kg of meal/head/day and Kenneth estimated that his home-mixed ration is around €40-50/t cheaper than a bought-in mix.

Feed ingredients are bought all year round.

"I got my ingredients at a fairly good rate," explained Kenneth.

"I did a lot of my buying at a quiet time during the summer but I always look for value."

However, Kenneth is keen to finish some heifers off grass next year, aiming for a cheaper, longer finishing period by feeding meal at grass.

"I'll try 100 stronger heifers this spring and maybe get them to the factory around May or June," Kenneth said.

Meanwhile, his uncle, William, focuses exclusively on finishing bulls and bullocks. The majority of these are Continentals.

"I use bulls because I'm always happier with them when they kill out," William said. "They make better use of meal and you get a better price at the end of their time.

"They mean a bit more hardship to manage them but they are better to thrive," the Tipperary farmer added.

However, William's son, David, does finish some heifers among the 900-1,200 cattle that are handled on the farm each year.

The cattle are fed a beef ration including wheat, barley, grass silage, maize silage and some fodder beet.

The maize, grass silage and beet are all grown on the farm, while William also grows some of his own wheat and some barley.

Buying of feed is done all year round to reduce costs as much as possible.

"You get a lot of feeding from one acre of beet, compared to other feeds," he claimed.

"But we got caught with the frost last year so we are going to pull it earlier this year.

"Feed prices have gone up €60/t on last year," added William.

Irish Independent