Award-winning beef farmer Gerard Dineen on why there is a lot of despair among beef farmers right now.
My name is Gerard Dineen, I have 60 suckler cows, and I finish all my bulls under 16 months, and I sell surplus heifers for breeding stock.
I have just finished my 2018 profit monitor, and it is not good reading.
After a bad spring, then a drought during the summer, I had to graze all my second cut silage.
I bought in extra hay and silage to make up the shortfall, at a high cost, but we were lucky to have got a good back-end to the year.
Having won the Grass10 Grassland Farmer of the Year title in 2017, by growing more than 14 tonnes of grass (dry matter) per hectare, it was an eye-opener not having a similar quantity of cheap grass in 2018.
Here in West Cork, I normally have a long grass growing season, with my cows out in February, and through to the end of November. This keeps the costs down.
Being in the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal Better Farm Beef Programme for five years turned my farm around.
I went from losing money to having one of the most profitable farms in the programme.
I want to thank Teagasc for this.
We had to do all our sums on everything we did on the farm.
There is a lot of despair among beef farmers at the moment because beef prices are on the floor and costs have gone through the roof.
When I break down my 2018 profit monitor, the results are frightening.
I have worked out what it costs to produce a kilogram of beef on my farm.
In 2017 (a better grass-growing year), it cost me €5.03 and we were getting just over €4 a kilogram from the factories.
We are producing beef at a loss, that is the big problem as I see it.
Every farmer should be doing a profit monitor, in order to know the cost of producing a kg of beef. Teagasc should be encouraging farmers to do this, but it is not..
How do you get the cost of producing a kg of beef from your profit monitor?
You add your variable costs and fixed costs, and then you add your labour costs.
You have to add a labour cost; otherwise, you are working for nothing. Teagasc does not add a labour cost in our profit monitor.
Over the last few years, I have kept track of the hours I worked on the farm, and it was a lot more than I thought.
People might think this hourly rate is either too high or too low. I think it’s too low; after all, farmers work seven days a week, including bank holidays and Christmas Day, etc.
People might also say, “You get a single farm payment and other payments for farming, and you should be happy with that.” The way I look at this is if I leased my farm out, I would get more money for leasing it out than what I’m getting from the Government.
So, at the end of the day, we have to get paid for the hours we work on the farm.
Otherwise, no intelligent young person will continue beef farming.