Plan for the autumn sales

Every successful business needs a planned sales outlet. The business of farming is no different.

Most suckler farms with spring-born calves will be looking to sell these weanlings in the next two months.

Target a sale day to market your stock. Aim to have calves weaned, looking spick and span, stress free and suitable for sale on the chosen day.

This point has been highlighted by Teagasc advisers at recent beef discussion group meetings. Analysis of eProfit Monitors on beef farms has clearly demonstrated that planned stock sales are key to profitability.

Creep Grazing

Grass is still plentiful on most farms. However, spring calvers are now contributing very little towards the performance of their calves.

With many herds not planning to wean until October, creep grazing of the calves ahead of the cows from now until weaning should be considered. It can be done by installing a creep gate or by raising an electric fence.

The benefits are many:

* Calves get priority access to the best quality grass which helps maintain thrive.

* With good quality grass, less meal is required, giving a cost saving.

* Calves get used to grazing away from their dams, reducing the cow-calf bond, leading to reduced stress for both at weaning.

The meal amount being fed to calves can be regulated by feeding in open troughs rather than a creep feeder.

This saves on the cost of buying a creep feeder and on the amount of meals fed.

Meal Feeding

Best suggested practice is to feed calves for at least four weeks pre-weaning in suitable open troughs located in an easily accessible fenced-off area in the corner of the creep grazing field/paddock.

Feed all calves together, where concentrate amount can be regulated, and all calves can be viewed and fed at the same time. Ensure there is enough room for all calves to feed.

The ration fed should be palatable, 15-16% crude protein content, fresh smelling, and free of dust. Introduce ration slowly until all calves are consuming at least 1kg of ration daily.

Animal weight is a key factor in selling price. Well grown bull weanlings could be fed 1.5-2kg each daily.

Do not overfeed the calves. Nobody wants to buy fat weanlings.

Do not change the ration, feed it at the same time daily.

Weaning

In advance of weaning, ensure all calves are TB tested, free of parasites, especially hoose (lung worms). Calves with damaged lungs are more susceptible to virus pneumonia at weaning time.

It is not a good idea to wean all calves together.

Wean on a gradual basis, weaning the best grown, heaviest first. Leave a week to ten days between weaning batches.

Move the cows away from the weanlings, not vice versa. Once weaned, continue to feed the weanlings at the same time each day, feeding at least 1kg per head per day in a well-fenced, well-watered field for at least another two weeks post-weaning, before sale.

Weaned bull calves and heifer calves should be fed separately.

In summary, when weaning, keep stress levels to a minimum. Pay attention to small details such as feed quality, trough space, feeding time, water supply etc.

Any dosing, TB testing, etc, should be done well in advance of weaning.

Sale Day

Check out weanling sales prior to selling day, and know in your mind what is the market value of your weanling.

On sale day, arrive early. Most regular buyers will know farmers who produce quality weanlings. Let it be known that you have quality, weaned stock for sale.

Transport weanlings to sale in a clean, dry, spacious, well-bedded, well-ventilated trailer or truck. Avoid selling stock that are too light, coughing, or have wet snouts.

Weanlings are best sold individually. If selling in pairs, then they should be perfectly matched by sex, breed, weight, age and colour.

You have only a few seconds in the seller’s box, avoid panic selling. If not happy with the price offered, you can always take them home.

Best of luck with weanling sales!


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