We need to stand together and stop blaming others for the beef price
2018 can only be described as a very difficult year for Irish beef producers. For most of the year, prices for finished cattle, stores and weanling have been very poor, which hugely eroded farm incomes. Unfortunately, the price is mostly out of the farmer’s hands, processors and retailers have way too much control in our industry. There may be lots that can be done around our yards to help control costs and to improve productivity, but the sale price of cattle is the biggest strain on the bottom line. Hopefully in 2019 we will see a price improvement. Perhaps the Beef Plan movement will gain traction and increase its membership and voice. We need to stop blaming other enterprises for the beef price, and stand together. What are your plans for 2019? The same questions regarding your business need to be asked each year, in a review of your herd performance to help you to make changes for the coming year.
Listing the previous year’s performance
If you are on Herdplus, a lot of the folowing information can be easily accessed.
■ Suckler performance (calves born per cow in the herd, mortality rates at birth and in the first month, disease incidence, vet calls for sick animals, and empty cows or carryovers).
■ BDGP (are you on target four and five star females? Is the scheme delivering results for you?)
■ Did the calving season go to plan in 2017? What was calf survival like and, if you lost calves, at what stage did that occur? Did cows clean easily after calving, or were there some dirty cows needing attention? In most cases, feeding management, environment and mineral status, influence the incidence of held cleanings.
■ Were suckler calves of the desired quality ?( Did your bull(s) produce consistent quality calves? Did you use AI, and was heat detection successful when using AI?
■ How well did first calving
heifers perform? Did they go back in calf? Had they grown sufficiently before calvin? Did they have enough milk? Will they develop into the kind of cow you want in your herd?
■ Beef performance figures (Live weight gain per day in weanlings (are frames grown well before finishing?), stores, and finishers.
■ Cattle kill out, grades and fat covers (Are you reaching targets for all stock in the timeframe appropriate for the genetics you have? Is the finishing system the correct one for you and your farm?) How did bulls, bullocks, and heifers compare, performance-wise?
What is your cost per kg of live weight gain (have you calculated your production cost for finishing stock)?
Did you change any input this year and how did it perform? This may be a new forage, a change in concentrates, a new dosing regime etc. How did any changes work out? Did you buy inputs based totally on price, and compromise on quality?
Bought-in stock for finishing
How well did bought-in stock perform on your farm? Were there any losses? What caused any losses (stress, disease)?
What is your protocol for introducing purchased stock to the farm (Do you use a transition diet to settle cattle into the farm? Are you vaccinating purchased stock at entry to the farm)?
Was your parasite control strategy effective in 2018? Even though we had a drought in 2018, Ireland is a wet country. It seems that the parasite burden has been higher than normal this year. Did you have any new disease outbreaks? What should you be vaccinating for, if anything?
Have you discussed getting your vet involved to formulate a vaccination programme, based on bloods etc?
Forage and feed
Not many will be happy with silage yields and feed quality in 2017, due to the weather.
Was your home-grown forage quality good enough to finish your stock? In some cases, grass silage will be totally useless to finish stock. Do you test your forages? Many don’t, which amazes me!
Are you using appropriate products for your stock? Are diets balanced for optimum performance?
Was the meal quality good enough (are you buying based on protein content rather than energy? Was sufficient meal fed to achieve performance targets)?
■ Fertiliser usage (are you using the right products)?
■ Grass grown per ha (are you measuring? Do you need help with grassland management)?
There are many questions above for you to consider regarding your production system.
Each year brings new challenges. What works in one year may not work in subsequent years.
As this is my last article of 2018, I would like to wish all readers a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2019. Thanks for all the feedback via email and when we meet at shows and on farm, it is much appreciated.
■ Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at [email protected]
Some of the attendance at the Beef Plan Movement meeting in the Riverside Hotel, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, last Monday.