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Increasing efficiency won't keep the industry afloat

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Michael Fitzmaurice feeds his cattle before heading off for his first day in the Dail

Michael Fitzmaurice feeds his cattle before heading off for his first day in the Dail

Brian Farrell

Michael Fitzmaurice feeds his cattle before heading off for his first day in the Dail

The weather has finally taken a seasonal turn. Its been very noticeable in the last week how, even though the cows with calves have plenty of grass in front of them, there is a real edge to their appetite now.

They are eating the baled silage first in preference to the grass, whereas previously they were just picking at the silage. We will certainly put the first-calvers into the sheds pretty soon.

A heifer rearing a calf and hopefully going back in calf again needs to be looked after at this time of year and the easiest way to do that is in the shed.

But we are determined, subjected to underfoot conditions being suitable, to keep out the mature cows and calves until such time as we have all the round bales of silage used up.

The breeding season is ongoing at the moment. The bulls seem to be working well and so hopefully cows are going in calf.

From this week on we will be watching them carefully for repeats, having recorded the jumbo tags of any being served up to this.

We already have one bull with a long-term, possibly career-threatening, injury. Originally I thought it was just a muscle injury in his hip but it seems to be more serious. He is in a field on his own resting at the moment.

Despite the travails in the beef industry at the moment, inside the farm gate, life still goes on and we have to do the best job we can. But my gut feeling is that we will have to make changes from our current system. What those changes are, I don't know yet and I will return to them at a later stage.

One of the arguments against us beef farmers from the industry that really annoys me is that somehow we are all inefficient and, if we lifted our game, we would be grand.

Of course there is always room to improve efficiencies, but increasing efficiency by a few per cent is not going to be enough to keep the industry afloat in its current way of doing business.

Pleasure

We had the pleasure of quite a few groups visiting the farm in recent weeks, especially a large group of young enthusiastic farmers who were attending the Macra conference.

There was plenty of enthusiasm and commitment in evidence, but the one question on everyone's lips was: "Is there a living to me made from it?" I only wish I knew the answer.

We recently sprayed the winter barley for weeds and aphids. We are delighted at how the crop is looking at the moment and, driving around the country, winter barely crops everywhere are looking a picture.

The under-16 month bulls seem to be thriving well. The first of them are up for slaughter in early December.

Since September, the bulls have been in a slatted shed that we use for cows. So we need to move them into another shed this week and we will take the opportunity to weigh some of them again just to monitor their progress. They are currently in larger numbers penned by age.

When we move them over to their new home we will put them through the crush and pen them by weekly kill.

But it is important to stress that we won't be mixing bulls from different groups.

When they came in first the concentrate part of their diet was made up of barley, oats, molasses, maize meal and soya. In recent weeks, we have increased the maize meal from 2.6kg/head/day to 4kg/head/day. This has strengthened up the power of the feed quite a bit.

It also moved up the cost of it, from around €2.40/day up to close to €2.60/day. I feel its important to give bulls an adequate amount of maize meal to give them a fat cover.

On visual inspection I would be confident that they are on the right track. Unfortunately, we are running out of time for this price increase that has been widely spoken about.

If it doesn't come, they are actually going to make less than last year … and they didn't leave any money last year.

Robin Talbot farms at Ballacolla, Co Laois in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann.

Indo Farming