Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Stretching beef targets at Grange

All serious cattle farmers are facing their cars towards Grange, Co Meath, this morning for the Teagasc suckler beef open day.

The thing that most beef producers will want to know is the plan to deliver the profit targets set for the new 120-cow herd, and which bits of it are relevant to their own farming situation.

The financial target set is a stretching one. If you look the top third of producers as measured by the Teagasc eProfit monitor, the average gross margin is €571/ha. If you look at the gross margins being achieved by the top third as measured in the National Farm Survey (NFS), the figure is €337/ha. The target gross margin for the Derrypatrick Herd in Grange is €1,052/ha. So performance levels will need to be high if these figures are to be achieved.

The financial target is built on high gross output from the unit. The target is to produce over 1,000kg of live weight per hectare or in value terms €1,797/ha, which is well in excess of what is being achieved by the top third of producers as measured by either the eProfit monitor or the NFS. The team in Grange are looking to drive the value of the output by increasing stocking rate, high calving rates, good live weight gain and by producing higher carcass value. Stocking rate is the most important of these factors, and the ability of the farm to grow and use grass to carry the desired stocking rate is key. Each 0.1 livestock unit increase in stocking rate will add €33/ha to the gross margin.

Grazed grass is, comparatively, the cheapest feed and maximising the proportion of high digestibility, grazed grass in the annual feed budget, while simultaneously achieving high animal performance and providing sufficient grass silage of appropriate digestibility for the indoor winter period, is central to the production system. At this time of the year the aim is to keep pre-grazing covers at between 1,200kg and 1,800kg DM/ha within a 20-25 day grazing rotation. When pre-grazing yields start to exceed 1,800kg/DM/ha paddocks are removed from the grazing rotation.

It's planned that grazed grass will contribute 60pc of the annual feed budget, with 680kg of concentrates fed per cow unit. If the grazing season ends up being shorter than planned, its impact on costs and margin have been analysed. A six-week shorter season, relative to the current target, would increase variable costs 13pc and decrease gross margin 9pc.

The unit's breeding policy aims to exploit breed differences and hybrid vigour. For crossbred cows this advantage can be plus 13pc, up to 21pc when a sire of a third breed is used.

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Irish Independent