A few weeks ago I attended the beef technical seminar and tour in Cop Laois run by the Agricultural Science Association.
One thing that was very clear from all speakers on the day was the need for further efficiencies in future beef production systems.
Dr Paul Crosson based at Teagasc Grange made some recommendations based on the findings of the BETTER farm programme.
A clear production system should be decided upon; land type needs to be strongly considered, when choosing.
Farm infrastructure will also determine what system is possible, or what changes are needed.
The type of housing available or planned will also be a factor in choosing a production system, as will availability of labour and the skills set of the labour available.
Obviously, finance is a big factor with any production system — what will give the best return on investment, and can it provide for further expansion if desired.
Overall, it was concluded in the BETTER farm programme that the level of management on individual farms was as important as the system of production.
Findings from participants showed that an increase in stocking rate alone, from 1.85 livestock units per ha to 2.03, and kg of liveweight per hectare increased by 10%.
On calving date and spread, Dr Crosson said beef producers must match their calving pattern with their desired production system.
Does a spring or autumn calving system suit best? Are weanlings to be exported or sold as forward stores?
Calving compactly was recommended because calves of similar age are easier to manage and health issues are minimised.
Spring calving could maximise weight gain from grazed grass.
Dr Crosson said animal productivity on the BETTER farms is based on a combination of reproductive and live weight performance.
He advised, “Have a live healthy animal available for sale for each bred female.” Live weight at sale should be as high as possible for grass-based production.
The BETTER farm programme objectives was to increase gross margin to €1000/ha by setting benchmarks for efficient production; putting in place an intensive support service; closely monitoring technical and financial performance; and promoting wider dissemination.
Dr Crosson explained that total farm profit was determined by production system, stocking rate and output, calving date and spread, grassland management, and animal productivity.
In summary, there were substantial profitability improvements on the BETTER farms.
Output (stocking rate x productivity) increased by 34%, and financial output increased by 49%.
Output per ha increased between 2008 and 2011 from 292kg to 353kg.
Farmers on the programme had on average a €29,256 increase in financial return.
Reproductive improvements will take longer to come through; no overall increase in calves per cow per year was achieved.
The conclusion — profitable suckler beef production is possible through farm planning and high levels of management
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