We need to stand to­gether and stop blam­ing oth­ers for the beef price

Irish Examiner - Farming - - BEEF SECTOR - Brian Reidy

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)?

An­i­mal health

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!

Meal pur­chases

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.

Happy Christ­mas

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]

Pic­ture: Pa­trick Browne

Some of the at­ten­dance at the Beef Plan Move­ment meeting in the River­side Ho­tel, En­nis­cor­thy, Co Wex­ford, last Mon­day.

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