Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Ruairi Cummins March/April Update 2024

Plans after a wet spring

Plans after a wet spring

  • Plans for first cut silage
  • Fertiliser rates for silage fields where slurry can’t be spread
  • Cows and calves were turned out to grass full time on 13th April
Latest updates

Latest updates

  • Dairy beef calf performance
  • Latest bull weights
  • First batch of bulls finished at 14 months of age
ePM analysis for 2023

ePM analysis for 2023

  • 2023 profit monitor completed
  • Summary analysis
  • Areas to focus on for 2024


Ruairi is planning to make his first cut silage before 28th May, which gives him about 30 days between spreading fertiliser and cutting date. The grass covers are too heavy to spread slurry so he will now spread 2 bags of 13-6-20 + S/acre and top it up with 1 bag/acre of 38% protected urea.

Three fields are closed up for silage (2A, 2B, rented land) which amounts to 15 acres. If Ruairi yields 7 bales per acre that will give him 105 bales for next winter. He will also take a second cut from these fields, and also cuts strong paddocks and hay meadows on the out farm to build his winter feed reserve. 560 bales of silage will be required in total for next winter.

Fertiliser spreader in field

Figure 1: Ruairi spread fertiliser on silage round as soon as it was fit to travel

Grazing ground has not been fertilised yet so Ruairi can blanket spread 1.5 bags of 13-6-20/acre to help grass growth recovery and to boost the P and K indexes. Slurry was spread on some paddocks on 10th March.

Grass covers are good at present with an average farm cover of 907 kg DM/ha. Growth since 23rd March has been slow at 9 kg DM/ha/day and demand is over 38 kg DM/ha/day. However the fertiliser application will help this and Ruairi also has 24 days of grass ahead which is on target for this time of year. The cows and calves were let out to grass full time on 13th April.

Grass wedge for farm

Figure 2: Grass wedge 12th April 2024


The two bigger dairy beef calves are now weaned off milk for approximately 1 month. Ruairi has found that the other calves are slower to thrive. He consulted with the vet and while they had a slight cough, they had no temperature and no scours. They were given a multivitamin injection and are continuing to get milk once per day. They are all eating up to 2kg of ration/head/day and will be turned out to grass in a sheltered paddock near the yard when the weather settles down.

The 16 finishing bulls were weighed on 29th March and averaged 627kg. They gained 1.81kg/day since 23rd February and now eating 9kg ration/head/day.

One of the bulls was finished on 2nd April as Ruairi noticed that he wasn’t thriving as well as he should have been. Despite weighing 640kg on 29th March he graded R-3= at a carcass weight of 331kg at 13.9 months of age, making €1794. Five more bulls were drafted for finishing that ranged from 645 to 690kg on 29th March. They averaged 407kg carcass weight, graded U-3- and averaged €2262/head at 14 months of age. This leaves 10 bulls for finishing over the next 6-8 weeks.

One cow was also finished on 4th April, weighing 317kg carcass weight, grading O-4= and making €1363.

Finishing bulls

Figure 3: Finishing bulls


Ruairi completed his profit monitor for 2023. 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. Ruairi’s figure for 2023 was 418 kg/LU which is an increase on last year’s figure of 394 kg/LU so he will be aiming to maintain that this year.

2. Stocking rate

The farm is stocked at 1.77 LU/ha. Ruairi is considering moving towards a 50 cow herd, or else keeping the store heifers and bullocks to finish but financially if he can sell them for €3/kg live weight he is happy with that system.

3. Gross output

The gross output figure is calculated from cattle sales minus cattle purchases and add/subtract any changes to the inventory. Ruairi had a gross output figure of €2145/ha which is the main ‘money in the pot’ to cover his variable and fixed costs. This has increased by €269/ha on the 2022 gross output figure which is due to a higher price/head of the cattle sold and also less purchases in 2023 versus 2022.

4. Variable costs

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

  • Purchased concentrate at €264/ha
  • Contractor at €128/ha
  • Fertiliser at €105/ha

At €1037/ha the variable costs amount to 48% as a percentage of the gross output which is below the target of 50%. Ruairi can keep his ration bill relatively low as he made excellent quality silage in 2023 and does not feed the finishing bulls ad lib as a result. Similarly the store cattle get enough ration to balance their diets but he does not over feed them to compensate for poorer quality silage either. Spreading lime on the home farm and the out farm will also help to result in a better response to fertiliser over the coming years.

5. Gross Margin

This is the gross output figure minus variable costs and leaves James with a gross margin of €1107/ha, at an increase of €156/ha since 2022 which is a great improvement 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.

Ruairi’s focus for 2024 will be to maintain the output/LU and keep his variable costs low this year. He is awaiting soil sample results and will continue focusing on building the soil fertility on the farm.