Beef Strategies for 2022
This year has seen price inflation particularly on key inputs such as fertiliser, feed and projected contractor costs. This creates another challenging year for beef farmers who have shown significant resilience to date. Colm Kelly, Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Ballinasloe suggests ways to manage this
The key message is to grow enough silage to meet your stocking requirements next winter. Allow for additional demand caused by poor weather conditions or additional stock that may be kept if market conditions are unfavourable. Another consideration is that if meal feeding rates are reduced due to high feed price or availability issues, then silage intakes will increase to compensate. A feed budget for silage requirements would be a useful exercise. The PastureBase Ireland system is free to users and has a useful winter feed budgeting facility in the program. Delaying silage cutting date to get a heavier crop is not recommended as this can reduce overall yield by hampering second cuts or return to grazing. Silage quality which is influenced by cutting date is also important. Targeting higher quality silage for growing and lactating stock will help mitigate performance losses where meal feeding rates are reduced next winter.
Low emission slurry spreading equipment has the potential to capture 3 units additional N per 1000 gallons. Spring application of slurry will also capture more N than summer applications. Best relative value fertilisers are Urea, Protected Urea and 18 6 12 although availability issues with N straights in particular may force some peoples hand. On 1st cut silage ground 3000 gallons/acre of good (7% DM) cattle slurry should meet P and K requirements in the absence of a slurry test indicating differing values. Fertiliser recommended rates for silage cuts are available to view on Soil & Soil Fertility on the Teagasc website with 80-100 units/acre total N recommended for 1st cut silage. Lime is a relatively cheap input where there is a requirement. On sub optimum pH soil, lime application will increase nutrient availability. It is recommended to apply lime on silage ground after silage cuts have been taken for the year due to the risk of silage contamination which could compromise preservation. Grazing ground can be targeted with lime at any time and can be grazed when washed down off the leaf.
Focussing on grass utilisation and removing impediments to grass growth will be a worthwhile strategy this year. Targeting a 3 day grazing block using a temporary electric fence where required will increase the volume and quality of grass utilised. Grazing in greater than a 3 day block leads to the hampering of re-growths. Grazing higher quality grass will also boost animal performance which will be key this year to getting higher growth rates and reducing the amount of meal required to finish stock. Close monitoring of feed demand and ability to meet grazing and silage requirements will allow prompt decisions to be made on sale timings and avoid pressurised situations.
Clover is optimised at pH 6.5-7 and good P & K levels. Grazing at lower covers increases the amount of light the base of the sward receives optimising the conditions for clover. This will improve the stock performance and contribute additional N to the soil. The addition of red clover to silage cuts is also a strategy for reducing N input and increasing protein content of silage. Red clover has a higher growth habit which allows it to compete on silage ground but persistency can be a challenge. Teagasc fact sheets on clover are available, online search ‘Teagasc Clover’.
Streamline systems to reduce low productivity animals. Prompt culling of empty suckler cows, targeting heifers to calve at 24 months and drafting cattle as they have reached the correct fat score reduces feed demand and optimises output.
Direct Payments & Schemes:
As ever ensure direct payments are maximised and avail of scheme income as this will be crucial to weather price inflation and uncertainty in the market place. The BEEP S scheme and Dairy Calf weighing scheme is closing 25/04/22.
Think through how your cash-flow will be affected this year. The requirement for upfront payments on some inputs may challenge cash flow on a drystock enterprise. If a loan is required to ease cash flow issues having your 2021 accounts completed may be beneficial in securing finance this year.
- Ensure you have enough silage for your requirements
- Utilise slurry effectively particularly on silage ground
- Optimise clover and grass utilisation
- Plan this year’s cash-flow
More advice on feed security can be found at Food and Feed Security for Grassland Farmers on the Teagasc website. | If you have any questions about this topic you can always talk to your Teagasc advisor.