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Ruairi Cummins March Update

Use soil samples to complete fertiliser plan for farm

Use soil samples to complete fertiliser plan for farm

  • Prioritise spreading lime on the farm first to correct soil pH
  • Use slurry and FYM on fields that are cut for silage and/or where P and K indexes are low
  • Order fertiliser ASAP
Complete 2021 profit monitor

Complete 2021 profit monitor

  • Review performance for the year
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Plan for how to offset high input costs this year where possible
Weigh animals before turnout to grass

Weigh animals before turnout to grass

  • Weigh finishing cattle monthly to monitor performance
  • Weigh yearlings before they go to grass to see winter weight gains
  • Turn lighter stock out to grass as soon as weather allows

Soil Fertility

Soil samples were taken on Ruairi’s farm and these results have been used to develop a sustainable fertiliser plan for the farm. They showed that 47% of the farm has a pH less than the optimum of 6.2. This will require 64 tonnes of lime to rectify over the coming years, but it will generate an excellent return on investment of 7:1. Slurry/unprotected urea can be spread 10 days before lime, but should not be spread for 3-6 months after lime. Similarly silage should not be cut for 3-6 months after spreading lime as it may affect silage preservation.

The phosphorus levels on Ruairi’s farm are quite good, with 76% in the target index of 3 or 4. This is unsurprising as he generally spreads compound fertilisers on the farm. Similarly, 65% of the farm is in index 3 or 4 for potassium.

All of the slurry on the farm will be targeted to silage ground to help replace the nutrient offtakes. 18-6-12 is recommended for grazing ground and protected urea is the most environmentally friendly and economical option for straight nitrogen on the farm. Muriate of potash (50% potassium) can also be spread to help build potassium indexes. Ruairi has fertiliser ordered and it awaiting delivery.


Ruairi completed his 2021 profit monitor and has been analysing the figures. His output per livestock unit was 386 kg/LU which is excellent. 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:

  • Production per cow (cow fertility, bull fertility, calving pattern and mortality)
  • Performance per head (live weight gain at grass, live weight gain indoors (silage quality), level of meal feeding and animal health)

The total kg of beef sold from the farm is calculated by multiplying the total kg/LU by the stocking rate on the farm (1.72 LU/ha). In Ruairi’s case he sold just under 25t of beef for 2021.

As with most farms, Ruairi’s highest bills for 2021 were feed (€243/ha), fertiliser (€118/ha) and contractor services (€127/ha). However a good measure of financial performance is comparing total variable costs (€706/ha) as a percentage of gross output (€1593/ha) which is 44%. This indicates that Ruairi is producing the beef on his farm at a relatively low cost and getting a good return on investment.

Ruairi’s fixed costs are €638/ha, but as suggested from the word these costs are generally ‘fixed’ and stay the same every year, so are difficult to improve on.

With rising input costs, Ruairi is planning to sell his stores this spring instead of keeping them until the autumn as he usually would. This is due to good live prices and he is hoping that it will allow home to save on fertiliser this year, while continuing to make the same amount of silage as required for the winter.


The under 16 month bulls (14) were weighed on 1st March and they averaged 562 kg, with an average daily gain of 1.74 kg/day since their last weighing on 31st January. They ranged from 505 kg to 705 kg.

The home bred heifers (18) averaged 403 kg on 21st February, with an average daily weight gain of 0.68 kg/day since their last weighing on 3rd December. This ranged from 0.4 to 0.94 kg/day.

The bought in heifers (6) averaged 291 kg, having gained 0.89 kg/day since their previous weighing on 3rd December.

The bullocks (13) averaged 428 kg on 21st February, having gained 0.77 kg/day since their previous weighing on 3rd December.