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Proinnsias Creedon March/April Update 2024

The calves have arrived!

The calves have arrived!

  • 66 calves purchased
  • Feeding regime
  • Vaccinations given on arrival to farm
Profit monitor results

Profit monitor results

  • 2023 profit monitor completed
  • Plans to reduce variable costs
  • Increase in output/LU since 2022 but further progress expected
Plan for 2024

Plan for 2024

  • Latest soil sample results
  • Lime still required to rise soil pH
  • Slurry, 18-6-12 and MOP will help to rise indexes where needed


Proinnsias has bought 66 heifer calves from 3 local dairy farms between 17th February and 21st March. They are mainly AAX and HEX calves. The average price paid was €162/calf which Proinnisas was happy with as the calves were born between 16th January and 28th February.

Calves are following the electrolyte protocol on arrival to the farm and getting 60ml microbes, followed by 30ml/head/day up until they are 30 days of age on the farm.

They are also vaccinated against IBR, RSV and Pi3 intranasally within 48 hours of arrival to the farm. A preventative coccidiosis treatment is being given at approx. 4 weeks of age.

The calves are being fed milk replacer at a rate of 125g/litre. They are getting 2.5L/head twice daily. It cost €49/bag and was bought by the pallet. A mixer valve is being used which means the water comes out at 41oC and saves ~30 minutes mixing hot and cold water to get the correct temperature.

The older calves are already eating up to 1kg ration/head/day which is expected before they will be weaned.

A commercial beef value index is available for 26/66 of the calves that were bought in. The average CBV is €57 (2 stars across breed) and this ranges from -€16 (1 star across breed) to €114 (3 star across breed). The carcass weight is -3.15kg on average and ranges from -14kg to +2.2kg. The carcass conformation is 0 on average and ranges from -0.5 to 0.44. The age at slaughter is -1.7 days on average and ranges from -8 to +1 days.  Further information on the CBV is available here.

Unfortunately the weather is continuing to cause havoc on farms and while the calves were doing well health wise, there was an outbreak of pneumonia and scours over the Easter weekend which has required veterinary treatments to aid calf recovery.

Dairy beef calves

Figure 1: Dairy beef calves in new shed


Proinnsias has completed and analysed 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. Proinnsias’s figure for 2023 was 423 kg/LU which is a good increase on last year’s figure of 339 kg/LU, but below the target of 500 kg/LU. He will be aiming to increase it this year by continuing to improve calf health from purchase to turnout through vaccinations and good housing facilities. He will also continue to aim for making >72% DMD silage and to graze grass covers at 1400 kg DM/ha with less than 3 days per paddock for the yearlings.

2. Stocking rate

The farm is stocked at 2.33 LU/ha. Proinnsias 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. Proinnsias had a gross output figure of €2650/ha which is the main ‘money in the pot’ to cover his variable and fixed costs. This has increased by €58/ha on the 2022 gross output figure despite selling 13 less cattle, but which are accounted for in the stock inventory.

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 €874/ha
  • Contractor at €241/ha
  • Fertiliser at €274/ha

At €2056/ha the variable costs amount to 78% as a percentage of the gross output which is much higher than the target of 50%. Proinnsias’s variable costs were €175/ha higher in 2023 than 2022.

5. Gross Margin

This is the gross output figure minus variable costs and leaves Proinnsias with a gross margin of €594/ha, at a decrease of €117/ha since 2022. 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.

Things that Proinnsias plans to do during 2024 to reduce costs are to:

  1. Pull/reduce ration usage during summer for calves and price around for best value.
  2. Cut microbes after 30 days on the farm.
  3. Health: Treat earlier for coccidiosis, take monthly FEC’s, continue to use snap tests for any scours, analyse vet medicines used in 2023 to see what issues occurred and when
  4. Spread lime & reduce nitrogen usage where possible

Finishing heifers

Figure 2: Finishing heifers

Soil Fertility

Soil samples were taken for the farm and the results were analysed.

Soil fertility 2021/2022

Figure 3: Soil fertility 2021/2022

Soil fertility 2023/2024

Figure 4: Soil fertility 2023/2024

The soil pH has dropped significantly and 186t of lime is now required across the farm. The fields where lime has been spread have shown a visible increase in soil pH, but as other fields weren’t topped up with lime in the last 2 years they appear to have dropped.

The soil P indexes appears to have dropped in the heavier fields, some of which also have a soil PH less than 5.9. These can be targeted with lime, slurry and 18-6-12 to build them back up this year.

The K indexes have dropped in 3 fields that are primarily cut for silage and these can be built back up by spreading slurry and muriate of potash (50% K) to help replace offtakes and build back up the soil index.

The main fertiliser recommendations are for 18-6-12 and muriate of potash (50% K) to help build soil indexes. Slurry can be applied to silage fields to replace nutrient offtakes. And nitrogen required can be spread in the form of protected urea (38% N + 7% S).

First cut silage will require 80 units N, 16 units P and 100 units K. Second/subsequent silage cuts need 60 units N, 10 units P and 60 units K. In terms of index build up, index 1 for P will need 16 units P/acre and 8 units P/acre at index 2. Index 1 for K will need 48 units K/acre and 24 units K/acre at index 2. It is important to check your own nutrient management plan for recommended advice and limits.