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Kay O'Sullivan January/February Update 2024

Spring grazing plans

Spring grazing plans

  • Opening cover of 700 kg DM/ha
  • Large demand for grass in spring
  • Spring grazing plan
Finishing performance

Finishing performance

  • 2022 born bullocks finished
  • Finished at 20.7 months of age with no ration
  • Average carcass weight 295kg
Profit monitor results 2023

Profit monitor results 2023

  • 2023 ePM completed
  • Analysis of figures
  • Higher gross margin vs. 2022


Kay completed an opening grass cover for the farm on 24th January. It showed that she had a farm cover of 700 kg DM/ha which she is happy with. The ewes are currently at grass full time but will be housed before they are due to start lambing. The 2023 born cattle are finishing grazing the redstart and are also being given red clover silage in the same paddock. The cows have access to grass paddocks, 75% DMD silage and organic straw, but are grazing low covers to try and restrict them before calving. Kay is happy with their body condition after she left the calves on them before weaning due to excellent quality silage and it appears to have worked well with most of them fit but not fat.

Cattle grazing redstart

Figure 1: 2023 born cattle grazing redstart

 The covers are not excessively high on the farm, with one at a maximum of 2200 kg DM/ha, but the remainder are 1400 kg DM/ha or less so Kay doesn’t see any issues grazing them when the stock are already used to being at grass.

Grass wedge

Figure 2: Opening cover on 24th January 2024

Demand will increase rapidly on the farm when the ewes begin lambing and the cows begin calving. Fortunately growth is already starting on the farm and kay’s second grass measurement on 20th February showed a grass growth rate of 6 kg DM/ha and an increase in the average farm cover to 815 kg DM/ha.

With grazing after taking place all winter, Kay’s spring rotation plan will be more conservative than a conventional drystock farm. She aims to graze 30% of the farm by 17th March, a further 30% by mid-April and the final 40% by early May when grass growth typically exceeds demand on the farm, also known as ‘magic day’. 6% of the farm has been grazed between 19th January and 22nd February.


The 7 2022 born bullocks were finished on 11th January from redstart, grass and multispecies & red clover silage. They averaged a carcass weight of 295kg (range 247kg to 316kg) and graded O+4- at 20.7 months of age (range 19.6 to 21.7 months of age). They made an average price of €1666/head.

Finishing cattle

Figure 3: Finishing cattle before sale


Kay completed her profit monitor for 2023. She has since been analysing the ‘cattle detailed’ report for her 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. Kay’s figure for 2023 was 287 kg/LU which is back on last year’s figure of 296 kg/LU so she will be aiming to increase that this year.

2. Stocking rate

The farm is stocked at 1.07 LU/ha. While Kay is reducing the ewe numbers and increasing the cattle numbers on the farm, this is to reduce labour and she plans to stay at the same stocking rate across the whole farm. She has an option to sow an organic tillage crop if she wishes to increase output from the farm and this would increase the farm stocking rate, but has no plans to do so for 2024.

3. Gross output

The gross output figure is calculated from cattle sales minus cattle purchases and add/subtract any changes to the inventory. Kay had a gross output figure of €905/ha which is the main ‘money in the pot’ to cover her variable and fixed costs. This has increased by €90/ha on the 2022 gross output figure.

4. Variable costs

The 3 biggest expenses on conventional drystock farms are purchased concentrate, fertiliser and contractor costs. As Kay buys in very little organic ration and is not permitted to spread chemical fertiliser these aren’t an issue on her farm, plus it means she is somewhat insulated from the price increases that occurred in 2022. Her biggest costs for the year were:

  • Seed and lime at €94/ha
  • Contractor at €35/ha
  • Breeding and herd improvement at €20/ha

At €208/ha the variable costs amount to 23% as a percentage of the gross output which is very low and is reflective of the organic system.

5. Gross Margin

This is the gross output figure minus variable costs and leaves Kay with a gross margin of €697/ha, at an increase of €83/ha since 2022.

6. Fixed costs

The fixed costs are typical of a conventional beef farm at €523/ha and are mainly coming from depreciation on a shed and machinery on the farm (€294/ha). Other costs allocated here include hired labour, machinery running & repair, car, phone, electricity, repairs and maintenance, insurance and professional fees.

7. Net profit

This amounted to €174/ha for 2023 for the cattle enterprise, without any direct payments included. The BISS, ANC, SCEP, ACRES, organic, forestry payments etc. are added onto this afterwards to contribute to kay’s farm income for the year.