Further efficiencies in beef production systems

I attended an excellent beef technical seminar and tour last week in Co Laois, run by the Agricultural Science Association.

In technical updates during the morning seminar session, a few things were very clear — summed up as the need for further efficiencies in beef production systems.

Profitability on the farm is not driven by just one element. Clearly, it’s a combination of many elements, including grassland management, selecting the correct stock for your system, feeding the right diet at the right time, and controlling disease issues

BETTER farm programme

Dr Paul Crosson of Teagasc reported on the BETTER farm programme. This has shown substantial profitability improvement due to:

* Increased output (stocking rate X productivity).

* Improved efficiency (grass-based systems).

* Reproductive improvements will take longer to come through.

* Profitable suckler beef production is possible through farm planning and high levels of management.

Suckler cows

On feeding and management of suckler cows, Dr Alan Kelly, UCD said:

* The feed requirement of the sucker cow varies throughout the year in accordance with the stage in production.

* A series of target condition scores can be used to manage feeding levels.

* Appropriate nutritional management can optimise cow fertility, thereby improving the economic efficiency of the enterprise.

Winter Finishing

Teagasc nutritionist Dr Siobhan Kavanagh spoke on feed options for winter finishing. She advised:

Target high levels of gain from grass, get 65% to 80% of gain from grass.

On 50 finished cattle, there can be €1,900 of a difference between feeding systems. The difference could be a lot less without crop yield variation, investments in machinery, etc.

* There are relatively small differences between grain treatment options.

Animal Health

Dr David Graham of Animal Health Ireland advised on controlling the big diseases.

His presentation gave an insight into Animal Health Ireland’s (AHI) strategy for the control of BVD, IBR and Johne’s disease over the coming years.

Animal Health Ireland’s mission statement is: “To plan, lead and co-ordinate all efforts towards superior cattle health on behalf of our members, enhancing value for livestock farmers and the agri-food industry.”

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