Drought conditions

Drought conditions continue to upset grazing plans in the south and east of the country. While parts of the west received rain over the weekend, much of the country continues to be in severe moisture deficit.

There isn’t a lot can be done except keep feed and water to stock. It’s important now to do a detailed fodder budget for the winter to see how you are fixed for feed.

Feeding extra meal will reduce your forage demand but it is costly at the moment and on some farms it may be better off to offload some stock when prices are relatively good as opposed to allowing animals stall in terms of weight gain.

I was on a farm in the east of the country this week where calves are showing signs of reduced thrive, dry hair etc.

The advice is to go in with creep to calves where cows have dropped off in milk yield. This will reduce stress levels and keep calves growing.

Early-spring-born cows could also be weaned and tightened up on bare paddocks. This will mean aftergrass can be kept for younger weanlings to keep them moving.

With very little rain forecast for the south of the country, these conditions are likely to stay with us for another few weeks, so taking action early is important.

Under-16-month autumn bulls

Getting the housing weight right is critical in under-16-month bull systems and with many farmers considering housing autumn-born bulls over the next few weeks, housing at the right weight is vital to avoid overweight carcases. Housing these animals earlier may also help reduce grass demand when growth returns.

The advice here is to consult with your processor as to the age and weight of the animals that will be coming fit and likely time of slaughter.

With weight issues coming more into the fray in recent weeks, you should try to have an average carcase weight of under 420kg. A bull with a carcase weight of 420kg at a kill-out of 58% will weigh about 700-720kg liveweight at slaughter.

Factoring in an average weight gain of 1.5-1.8 kg/day, bulls need to be housed at 500-560kg liveweight.

To maintain high levels of performance, concentrates should be given at grass up to about 5kg/day in one to two feeds prior to housing.

This will ensure there is no check in the bulls’ weight gain.

The increase to ad-lib meal feeding levels can then take place indoors over a two- to three-week period.

Once indoors, avoid stressing bulls too much by moving them often and never mix bulls that haven’t been together in pens.

When feeding bulls at grass, think safety at all times. If grass is tight on some farms, these are one of the first groups of animals that can come indoors for feeding. With finishing concentrates coming north of €450/t on some farms, farmers need to do the sums on going the whole way with these animals.

Top-quality heavy bulls are hitting over €3/kg in some marts. With increased costs, suckler farmers need that.

However, it’s very hard to see where the margin will be for the finisher, especially if factories are not willing sit down and talk with finishers on winter beef price.