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Ger McSweeney February Update

Complete spring rotation plan for your farm

Complete spring rotation plan for your farm

  • Measure grass and assess ground conditions
  • Complete spring rotation planner on PBI
  • Identify suitable ground for grazing
How much fodder will you need for next winter?

How much fodder will you need for next winter?

  • Complete a fodder budget
  • Identify how many high quality silage bales you will need
  • Plan for where and how you will make this good quality silage
Assess financial performance for 2021

Assess financial performance for 2021

  • Complete 2021 profit monitor
  • Identify where savings can be made for this year
  • Ensure that no ‘passenger’ animals are carried this year


There are 14 yearling heifers out grazing by day on the farm since the 23rd of January. They have been housed for a number of days due to heavy rain and saturated ground conditions.

Ger has his spring rotation planner set up on Pasturebase which helps him monitor his spring grazing targets to ensure that he does not run out of grass, but also to allow sufficient time for re-growths on paddocks before the second rotation starts. His target is to graze ~1.45 ha per week and at present he is behind this target due to good covers of grass on the farm. If the heifers could be moved to lower covers on the silage ground when weather allows, this would help him catch up. Alternatively he is considering letting cows out to grass by day without their calves to get grass into their diet and to help achieve grazing targets.

Six loads of slurry have been spread on a field that was reseeded last year at a rate of 1800 gallons per acre with the splashplate. Ger is holding the remainder of his slurry for silage ground and until growth picks up.

Since he is out grazing, Ger will need to spread some chemical or organic fertiliser on his fields. As slurry has a value of €39 per 1,000 gallons, he plans to spread 20 units/acre of protected urea (€20/acre) on one third of the farm before the end of February on paddocks that have already being grazed, on covers between 1,000 – 1,200 kg DM/ha that have plenty of perennial ryegrass and the driest paddocks on the farm.

The farm cover on 19th January was 849 kg DM/ha, with a growth of 6 kg DM/ha over winter. The soil temperatures ranged from 7.1oC to 7.5oC.

Animal Nutrition

Ger completed a fodder budget for the farm for winter 2022/2023 to estimate how much silage he needs to make this year. He planned for a 6 month winter and will need the following:

  • Suckler cows (35): 368 bales
  • 0-1 yr olds (34): 179 bales
  • 1-2 yr olds (9): 88 bales
  • TOTAL: 635 bales

It is estimated that there will be 150 bales of silage left over this year, so Ger needs to make 485 bales this summer. The young stock (0-1 yr olds) are a priority on the farm and a major focus this year will be making >70% DMD silage for them, with a good crude protein content to save on ration costs next winter. Ger has 10 acres set aside specifically for these, which will be cut twice with the aim of making 140 bales of excellent quality silage. Any surplus silage that is made from paddocks should yield at least another 39 bales of silage, which will be marked for the yearlings also.

This silage block will be grazed by the yearling heifers as soon as weather conditions allow to clean it off and allow for fresh growth when fertilising the field for silage. It will also get 2,500 – 3,000 gallons of slurry from the bull’s slatted tank when weather conditions allow.


Ger completed his 2021 profit monitor and has been analysing the figures. The output per livestock unit is 442.7 kg, which is well ahead of the target of >380 kg/LU for his suckling to beef system. This is the total kg of beef produced per livestock unit on the farm, and is the biggest indication of overall animal performance on the farm. It is affected by:

  • Production per cow (cow fertility, bull fertility, calving pattern and mortality)
  • Performance per head (live weight gain at grass, live weight gain indoors (silage quality), level of meal feeding and animal health)

The purchased concentrate, purchased forage and fertiliser costs were quite high at €593/ha, whereas the target is for €401/ha. With high fertiliser and ration costs this year, it is unlikely that they can be reduced significantly. However Ger has an extra 3.85 acres available to him this year which has the potential to reduce his purchased forage costs. It would also be worth trying to finish the cull cows off grass instead of carrying them through the expensive winter period.

His animal health/vet bill was higher than usual due to blood sampling of all his breeding females to test for neospora, and an outbreak of coccidiosis in calves. These costs will hopefully be reduced this year.

Overall, Ger’s gross output has continued to increase over the past 5 years, and his variable costs have remained steady. The fixed costs increased slightly this year.

This year he will use the Teagasc cost control planner to monitor costs on a monthly basis and to focus on reducing the major expenses on the farm.