I have been in two marts over the past week and the trade was impressive, with any farmer I spoke to happy with the prices received.
On the other hand, buyers are giving out that cattle are too dear to make any money on them. While we don’t know where beef price will be in the autumn, you should still do a budget on where your costs are and this should factor in how much you are able to pay for animals.
If you are buying cattle to finish off grass in September/October, do a quick budget at a realistic beef price for autumn 2022.
If we look at Irish Farmers Journal Martbids data this week, the top 33% of continental heifers from 400-450kg were making around €2.75/kg. That’s €1,147 for a 417kg heifer. Add €10 commission and €17 to haul them, that’s €1,174 home.
If it costs €200 to graze that heifer between now and 8 October and you feed €100 meal to get a level of finish in September, she is standing €1,474. Throw in some vet costs, haulage to the factory and slaughtering costs, that adds another €50.
If you needed €200/head to cover fixed costs and labour, that’s €1,724 total costs. If the heifer gained 1.1kg/day and weighed 618kg and killed out 55% at 340kg carcase, you need €5.07/kg to cover all costs. A U- grading heifer is trading between €5.15-€5.20/kg this week.
If we have a look at a dairy cross Aberdeen Angus heifer at 400kg, they are typically being bought at €2.50/kg so that’s €1,027/head home. If we put in a little less for grazing costs because of an earlier finish and a little less meal to finish her, we come into €1,277.
When overheads are added, she finishes at €1,527. If this heifer gained 1kg/day she kills out at 580kg in mid-September. At 52% kill out she comes into a 302kg carcase.
Typically these heifers will be O grading so we’ll give her an O= for this example. That means this heifer needs €5.05/kg to get out. An O= Aberdeen Angus heifer with a 20c/kg AA bonus is coming in at €4.93/kg this week.
Grass supply is quite tight on beef farms. Cold weather has meant that grass growth is behind, and in some cases cattle may have to be slowed up or rehoused to allow grass growth to recover again. The first thing is to have fertiliser spread.
Cold weather at this stage won’t affect it and it will be ready for grass to grow once temperatures increase. The second thing is to avoid opening all the gates and letting cattle roam freely across the farm to buy more days. Stick to the plan of grazing fields and moving on.
When grass growth gets back to normal, hold on for a few days until you have grass ahead again to resume normal grazing.
Make sure that measures to prevent tetany are continued for the next few weeks. I have heard of cows going down in the last few days. Sometimes the second rotation can be a higher risk period where more lush grass is being eaten and cases can occur as late as May. If we get a period of unsettled weather this will increase the risk of tetany occurring.