Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

William Kingston March/April Update 2024

Planning for silage

Planning for silage

  • How long will it take to graze silage ground?
  • Fertilising silage ground
  • Ensuring sufficient Ps, Ks and Sulphur are spread to replace nutrient offtakes
Latest updates

Latest updates

  • Autumn 2023 bull & heifer weights
  • Weights of store cattle
  • Finishing performance of heifers & cow
ePM results

ePM results

  • 2023 profit monitor completed
  • Analysis of results
  • Making good silage quality is the focus for 2024


William is planning to cut silage during 20th-25th May, weather permitting. His plan is to graze of the silage fields on the home farm before closing them up. There are 10 cows (will eat 16 kg DM/day), 10 weanlings (will eat 6 kg DM/day) and 7 heifers (will eat 9.5 kg DM/day) that can be turned out to graze he fields. Based on their intakes they will eat 287 kg DM/day as a group.

One silage field has a cover of 1054 kg DM available to graze and another has 3090 kg DM = 4144 kg DM in total. When his is divided by the group intake of 287 kg DM/day, it shows that it will take approximately 14.4 weeks for the group to graze the fields. He plans to graze the fields by the end of March and fertilise them by early April. If the weather does not settle and he has a shorter window to graze the fields, he can turn out more cattle to get through it quicker.

William plans to spread 2,500 gallons of slurry/acre on his silage ground, and top this up with 1.7 bags/acre of 38% protected urea + 7.5% sulphur. This means that approximately 87 units of nitrogen, 13 units phosphorus (P), 75 units potassium (K) and 13 units sulphur will be spread per acre. The nutrient offtakes for a 5t DM/ha crop of silage are 80 units nitrogen, 16 units P, 100 units K and 15 units sulphur per acre.

If 2 units/day (rule of thumb) are used up and William plans to cut silage on 20th May, the latest he can fertilise the silage crop is 6th April.

Calves at grass

Figure 1: Cows and calves grazing on the out farm


The 2023 autumn heifers (20) were weighed on 9th March. They averaged 244kg and gained 1.14 kg/day since birth on average.

The 2023 autumn bulls (21) were weighed on the same day and averaged 270kg, after gaining 1.22 kg/day on average since birth.

The 2023 spring heifer (1) weighed 500kg and gained 1.13 kg/day since 24th June 2023.

Four of the autumn 2022 heifers averaged 540kg and gained 0.64 kg/day since 24th June 2023.

Two heifers were finished on 28th February. They averaged 351kg carcass weight, graded U-4- and made €1966 each at 19.3 months of age.

A suckler cow was finished on 7th March. She was 554kg carcass weight, graded U=4+ and made €2659.

Finishing cow

Figure 2: Suckler cow that was 554kg carcass weight


William 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. William’s figure for 2023 was 425 kg/LU which is a good increase on last year’s figure of 397 kg/LU so he will be aiming to maintain that increase this year.

2. Stocking rate

The farm is stocked at 2.2 LU/ha. William is keen to avoid going into derogation on the farm and as such will be restricted to a maximum of 40 cows, while continuing to finish heifers under 19 months of age and bulls under 16 months of age.

3. Gross output

The gross output figure is calculated from cattle sales minus cattle purchases and add/subtract any changes to the inventory. William had a gross output figure of €2800/ha which is the main ‘money in the pot’ to cover his variable and fixed costs. This has increased by €667/ha on the 2022 gross output figure which is attributed to an extra 6 cattle sold and a higher price paid per kg.

4. Variable costs

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

  • Purchased concentrate at €1075/ha
  • Fertiliser at €358/ha
  • Contractor at €349/ha

At €2078/ha the variable costs amount to 74% as a percentage of the gross output which is well above the target of 50%. More ration was fed in 2023 due to poorer silage quality earlier in the year. The contractor services bill was also higher than 2022, but the machinery running costs reduced as a result. Veterinary costs, breeding costs and straw costs all increased in 2023 too.

5. Gross Margin

This is the gross output figure minus variable costs and leaves William with a gross margin of €722/ha, at an increase of €247/ha since 2022 which is a massive improvement, especially considering the challenging year that William had with a TB breakdown in the herd. 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.

William’s focus for 2024 will be to improve the silage quality on the farm and to reduce the ration fed as a result.