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John Barry March/April Update 2024

Weights & purchases

Weights & purchases

  • Dairy beef calves bought
  • Management of calves
  • Autumn born weanlings weighed
Soil sample results

Soil sample results

  • Soil sample results back
  • Increase in soil pH
  • P & K indexes have remained stable
ePM results

ePM results

  • 2023 profit monitor completed
  • Reduction in output/LU
  • Gross margin increased since 2022, despite 32 less cattle sold


12 dairy beef calves were bought on 7th March – 8 heifers and 4 bulls. They are getting 5L of milk replacer/head/day which is split into 2 feeds, along with ad lib hay and ad lib 18% crude protein ration. They were on ad lib whole milk on arrival to the farm and John fed them a converter powder to prevent any digestive upsets while they transitioned onto milk powder. They were given a treatment against coccidiosis at 6 weeks of age. They cost €200/head.

Dairy beef calves

Figure 1: Dairy beef calves bought this spring

Twelve of the 2023 autumn born heifers were weighed on 24th February. They averaged 184kg, and gained 0.93 kg/day since birth.

The autumn bulls (11) were weighed on the same day and averaged 222kg, after gaining 1.06 kg/day since birth.

Soil Fertility 

Soil samples were taken on the farm and the results have been used to update a nutrient management plan for the farm. The soil fertility results are outlined in the figure below.

Soil sample results 2023/2024

Figure 2: Soil fertility 2023/2024

The results show that 15% of the farm is optimal for a pH over 6.2 and a P and K index of 3 or 4. The soil pH appears to have decreased on the farm. 45% of the farm has a soil pH of 6.2 or higher, but 217t of lime is recommended to rise the pH in paddocks that are less than 6.2. Most of these fields are grazing paddocks on the home block, along with the grazing paddocks in the village. The soil pH has increased across the farm where previously only 34% had a pH of 6.2 or higher.

The phosphorus indexes are excellent on the farm, with 92% of the farm in index 3 or higher. The two paddocks in index 2 for P are in the village and are extensively grazed during the year so they can simply be built up with slurry or 18-6-12. The results are similar to the 2021 samples where 93% of the farm had P index 3 or higher.

The potassium (K) indexes are good too, with 76% of the farm in index 3 or higher, 25% of the farm is in index 2 and this is mainly in silage fields. This is similar to previous soil sample results so this is an area that can be focused on for improvement. The fields can be topped up with slurry, muriate of potash (50% K) or with protected urea + potassium (e.g. 38% N + 14% K).

As John’s soil indexes are so high, he has a restricted P allowance on the farm. This means that he can only buy 1.5t of 18-6-12. His main recommendation for the year is to spread nitrogen as needed in the form of protected urea and containing sulphur. 1.7t of muriate of potash is also recommended to help build K levels on the silage ground.

Soil sample results 2021/2022

Figure 3: Soil sample results 2021/2022


John completed his 2023 profit monitor. He has since been analysing the ‘cattle detailed’ report for his farm as follows:

1. Output/LU

The figure represents the kilograms of beef produced per livestock unit on the farm. This is impacted by everything that affects weight gain in the herd - the cow fertility, bull fertility, mortality, genetics, nutrition at grass, winter performance, ration fed, animal health and calving spread. The target for a suckler herd is >350 kg/LU and >500kg/LU for a non-suckling farm. John’s figure for 2023 was 324 kg/LU which is a decrease on last year’s figure of 357 kg/LU so he will be aiming to increase it this year by improving the weaning and winter management of his weanlings.

2. Stocking rate

The farm is stocked at 1.91 LU/ha. John has no plans to increase stock numbers or stocking rate on the farm so will be focusing on improving output/LU on the farm.

3. Gross output

The gross output figure is calculated from cattle sales minus cattle purchases and add/subtract any changes to the inventory. John had a gross output figure of €1526/ha which is the main ‘money in the pot’ to cover his variable and fixed costs. This has decreased by €471/ha on the 2022 gross output figure which is attributed to 32 less cattle sold last year versus 2022 as a result of a TB restriction from 2021. However stock inventory has increased on the farm which has partially contributed to this.

4. Variable costs

The 3 biggest expenses on conventional drystock farms are purchased concentrate, fertiliser and contractor costs, and John’s farm is no different. The biggest costs for the year were:

  • Purchased concentrate at €190/ha
  • Contractor at €179/ha
  • Fertiliser at €133/ha

At €805/ha the variable costs amount to 53% as a percentage of the gross output which is close to the target of 50%. John’s ration and fertiliser bills reduced in 2023 when compared to 2022, although the contractor bill increased slightly.

5. Gross Margin

This is the gross output figure minus variable costs and leaves John with a gross margin of €721/ha, at an increase of €97/ha since 2022 which is great to see. Fixed costs such as depreciation, hired labour, machinery running & repair, car, phone, electricity, repairs and maintenance, insurance and professional fees are then subtracted from this figure to give a net profit and then direct payments are added onto this.

John will be focused on getting the most out his weanlings this year through his AI bull selection and winter management (weaning, dosing & nutrition).

Housed weanlings

Figure 4: Spring 2023 born weanlings will be going to grass as soon as weather allows