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Michael & Niall Biggins January/February update




  • Calving going well with 32 cows calved in 4 weeks




  • Slurry applied to low covers of grass
  • Taking advantage of a dry February- Cows and calves let out to grass
  • Spring grazing plan – using the spring rotation planned


  • 2022 profit monitor results
  • Target output per LU of >350kg/LU for suckling system
  • What are your variable  costs at as percentage of your gross output? Target <50%


Calving started on February 7th and by the end of the month- 32 had calved . The remaining 35 will calve in March. While the majority of the 34 calved  without any difficulty , there was 1 loss which was then compensated by a set of twins. The vet had to be called to a difficult calving and thankfully all ended well.

Niall takes 2 days leave per week during this busy time to help out his father Michael. A dry February has been a real bonus as cows and calves are turned out  to grass 24 hours after calving. This has been a big saving in terms of labour and calves are much healthier outside. The freshly calves cows are turned out to a sheltered field adjacent to the yard in groups of 3 to 5. Once the calf is a week old  , they are put with a larger group further away from the yard.

The 2 year old heifers will start calving in the first week of March. Michael believes that calving a heifer to grass will help her maintain a good body condition which has a direct affect on going back in calf in May.



In early  February , 3 bays of slurry was applied to grassland areas with low covers of grass. These were fields that were grazed last in 2022. The rate of application was 1500gals/acre of well diluted slurry. The decision to apply slurry was taken as soil temperatures were at 8 degrees , ground conditions were excellent so the opportunity was taken.

All of the remaining slurry will be applied to the silage ground in mid march  once the cows have it grazed. Grazing in spring takes planning as there is a risk of not grazing enough ground by the first week of April to letting out too muck stock and running out of grass.

The spring rotation planner is a tool to plan out the first grazing rotation to ensure that grass is grazed early enough to allow time for re-growth for the second rotation and to ensure grass does not run out before the second rotation starts.

It is purely based on target areas and dates. Once you know the date you are letting out stock and the targets, you know how much land you have to graze per day, week and month. The following targets are for a dry farm such as the Biggins’s

  • 30% of your farm grazed by the 1st March
  • 60% of your farm grazed by Mid- March
  • 100% of your farm grazed by the first week of April

The planner below tells Michael & Niall the amount of ground they need to graze per week in order to meet those targets. The first areas to be grazed will be grazing ground before moving onto the silage ground . This gives the first grazing areas at least 70 days to recover before being grazed again at the start of April ie start of the second rotation.

While this is a dry farm, there are some heavy paddocks near the river and because of the excellent ground conditions in February, Michael intends to graze these in the first week of March .


Michael & Niall have completed his 2022 profit monitor to analyse the farm’s financial performance, compare with previous years, and to  benchmark against suckler farmers in the Future Beef group .Three main areas to analyse are;

  1. Output per livestock unit (LU) – The kilograms of beef produced for each LU on the farm. Every management practice on the farm affects this; health, mortality, performance at grass and housing, genetics, and in a suckling system the cow & bull fertility and calving spread. The figure for the farm is  figure is 329kg/LU. The target for  a suckling system this is >350kg/LU.
  2. Stocking rate – The number of livestock units per hectare on the farm. The stocking rate is  is 2.03 LU/ha. A higher stocking rate generally equates to a higher profit, but it is more important that each animal is performing well on the farm beforehand. The farm stocking rate will depend on the grass growth, land quality, labour availability and Nitrates Directive regulations.
  3. Variable costs as a % of gross output – Target ~45% to ensure there is enough money in the pot left to pay the fixed costs and leave a positive net margin. Michael and Niall’s figure is 32% which is excellent. One of the reasons for this is that they had forward bought some of the fertiliser in 2021 before the huge increases in price.

To reach the 350kgs/LU a focus will be an increasing the weanling performance on grass and possibly looking at keeping the plainer type stock for a second season at grass.