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John Barry February Update

Prioritise autumn born calves this spring

Prioritise autumn born calves this spring

  • Weigh them to see what their weight gain was over winter
  • Let them out to grass by day when ground conditions allow
  • Leave them on the suckler cow as long as possible
Make the most of spring grass

Make the most of spring grass

  • Let younger cattle to grass where possible
  • Spread 20 units/acre protected urea (if available locally) on dry fields with covers <1000 kg DM/ha 
  • Use spring rotation planner to track grazing progress
Complete 2021 profit monitor

Complete 2021 profit monitor

  • Gather farm expenses and income records for 2021
  • Analyse profit monitor results with your advisor
  • Pick areas for improvement for 2022


The 2021 autumn born heifers (18) were weighed on 22nd January. They had an average birth date of 31st October and were 167 kg, having gained 1.49 kg/day on average since birth.

The 2021 autumn born bulls (17) were weighed on the same day. They had an average birth date of 2nd November and were 163 kg, having gained 1.46 kg/day since birth on average.

They all have access to grass by day and get about 0.5 kg of a 13% CP ration, along with ad-lib access to silage.


John measured the grass on his farm on 23rd January and had a farm cover of 760 kg DM/ha.

The spring rotation planner is a useful tool to help monitor spring grazing targets to ensure that the farm does not run out of grass, but also to allow sufficient time for re-growths on paddocks before the second rotation starts. John’s target is to have two thirds of his farm grazed by 17th March (45.5 ha/112.5 acres). The remainder should be grazed by the second week in April (22.77 ha total; 5.7 ha or 14 acres per week). As there are heavy covers in the home block and the fields are quite wet after the heavy rainfall, it will be challenging to graze these off while ensuring good grass utilisation. As these paddocks are close to the yard they are well suited to the autumn born calves (35). John will also let the yearling heifers and bullocks (9) out with them to help them graze it faster. Around 10ha (14%) of the farm has been grazed to date.

The autumn heifers and bullocks (29) that were born in 2020 were turned out to grass for 9 days on 25th January which saved 9 bales of silage (€225 @€25/bale). They will be going back to grass this weekend to graze a dry paddock that will be getting slurry. They will then be moved to the silage ground for grazing.

No chemical fertiliser has been spread on the farm yet. As John has significant demand for grass from young stock and spring calving cows, this should be spread in the coming 2 weeks as soon as weather conditions allow on paddocks that have been grazed and with covers less than 1000 kg DM/ha.


John completed his profit monitor for 2021 and has been analysing it. He has identified 3 main areas for improvement over the next few years:

  1. Output per livestock unit (329 kg/LU)
  2. Production per cow (cow fertility, bull fertility, calving pattern and mortality)
  3. Performance per head (live weight gain at grass, live weight gain indoors (silage quality), level of meal feeding and animal health)

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:

This can be improved by tightening the calving spread on the farm and improving animal health through vaccination. John will also continue breeding for terminal traits for his finishing stock, managing grass and regularly weighing stock to monitor performance.

  1. Reducing variable costs as a percentage of gross output (56%)
  2. Wage per labour hour

The target for variable costs as a percentage of gross output is 45%. John aims to reduce this in two ways – firstly by increasing the kg of beef produced per livestock unit on the farm (above) and secondly by reducing his costs. He will be focusing on his concentrate costs (€241/ha) and animal health costs (€140/ha) in particular.

In line with increasing output and reducing costs, John will be trying to increase the wage he earns per hour worked on the farm. As he works off farm, it is important that the farm is set up efficiently and if there are any technologies that might help to save him time, these can be evaluated. It will also be important to record the hours worked on the farm so that the wage per labour hour is accurate.