Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Increase value of stock by feeding for profit

Joe Healy

TO FEED or not to feed, that is the question. My own opinion is that it always pays to feed.

When it comes to weanlings, especially if they are for selling, I am even more convinced about the merits of feeding.

No other bovine animal has the conversion rates of the weanling and, more particularly, the well-conformed weanling bull, where a 4:1 rate is possible, ie feed 4kg of meal and gain 1kg of liveweight. Heifers and plainer bulls have conversion rates of 5:1 or 6:1.

One of the many benefits of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme was to encourage farmers to feed the calf for four weeks prior to weaning and two weeks after.

A good 16pc ration in my local Arrabawn store at the moment is costing €200-210/t. Many farmers feed their weanlings ad lib for a minimum of two months. For quality stock this is financially rewarding. For those not feeding ad lib let us take the example below on a top-quality weanling bull that will convert at the 4:1 rate and feed it for the six weeks, averaging out at 2kg ration/day.

Cost of ration: 84kg @ 21c/kg = €17.64/hd.

Extra liveweight gained at 4:1 = 21kg.

Value of extra weight @ €2.50/kg = €52.50.

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Financial gain (€52.50 - €17.64) = €34.86/hd.

If you achieved a gain like this per calf, it equates to an extra €1,000 on a 30-cow suckler herd.

If we look at the good type heifer suitable for export and the typical R-grade continental bull at a conversion rate of 5:1 or 6:1 and leave them at an average sale price of €2/kg, those will gain an extra 16kg and also look a lot more saleable. The difference works out at a gain of approximately €14/hd. It's only when you come back to a price of €1.50/kg and a conversion rate to liveweight of 7:1 on poorer types that you are moving to a breakeven or negative effect financially. At this point you need to decide whether or not you cut back on the amount of meal fed.

Richard Hartnett, manager of Castleisland Mart, said last week the tops of the weanling bulls going for export were making anything from €2.50-3/kg and some extremes up to €3.50/kg. The good R-grade type for export was generally in a range of €2.10-2.30/kg with the slightly plainer R for the home trade making €1.70-2.10/kg.

The Belgian Blue heifer for export generally sold for €2-2.50/kg, while the nice Charolais and Limousin heifer was moving at €1.60-1.80/kg.

Irish Independent