Winter is beginning to edge its way in the front door - like the visitor you hope doesn't stay too long. However, the welcome autumnal visitor remained for such a lengthy duration they are considered part of the family.
We had an excellent autumn, with extended grazing right up to the middle of November. The limiting factor on cattle grazing this year was grass supply and not ground conditions as is normally the case.
That being said, temptation to graze grass had to be reined in. An average farm cover of 650kg DM/ha is the target for 1 December in order to have better, more valuable grass available for freshly calved cows.
The business model for the beef side of the enterprise was to sell all progeny from the suckler herd as 19- to 20-month-old steers and heifers. This year we decided to keep the continental Simmental X Charolais as bulls to slaughter.
The bulls fetched a fairly modest price of €3.80/kg and weighed an average deadweight of 477kg, with the heaviest bull coming in at 544kg and the lightest 383kg. It probably was not the wisest decision to keep these bulls. It is typical of the beef sector that a decision to squeeze or not, which is taken before bulls reach six months, has such a big effect on ultimate profitability.
It is interesting that there is a splinter group being formed to champion the plight of farmers due to falling beef prices.
Why has it come to this? Beef processors and retailers are taking a much greater slice of the profits than is necessary or right, but consumers are demanding cheap food.
That is until an international controversy like the horsemeat scandal manifests itself. I hope that something like this does not need to happen to reinforce the value of nutritious, wholesome, local food to consumers. You get what you pay for.
Following the drought, all farmers were hopeful of a good autumn, and so it transpired. Now that hope turns to a good spring with early grass growth, unlike the previous spring. One thing is certain though, we have to plan for the worst and have some kind of contingency to deal with extreme weather conditions similar to 2018.