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Meet Future Beef Farmer Sam Pierce


Sam Pierce farms 70 spring calving suckler cows and 130 mid-season ewes in south Co. Wexford. He also has a small tillage enterprise of 24 acres of winter and spring barley with all the straw and grain kept for use on farm. Sam joined the Future Beef programme in 2021

Grazing

Sam has a highly stocked dry farm. He has 30 suckler cows and their calves already at grass. They graze by day and come in at night. He walked the farm in late February and completed a Spring Rotation planner. The Spring Rotation planner in its simplest form takes a start date, an end date and divides the area of the farm by the number of days in between. In Sam’s case, he has 65ha of land, he started to graze on the 1/02/2022 and he hopes to finish the first round of grazing on the 11th of April. He therefore needs to graze a little over 3 ha per week to reach that target. He was not meeting this target, so he turned out a further 30 dairy bred calves to help him to catch up. Next week he will review his progress and make further changes if required.

When starting the grazing season cattle are let out onto medium covers first, to train them into grazing down tight to 4cm, this is to ensure there isquality in the grass for the rest of the season. If they are let out onto heavier covers, they tend to just walk the grass into the ground. Once they are “trained”, they will move into heavier covers.

The first area grazed are grazing fields, not silage ground. This is vitally important as Sam wants to start his second rotation in early April, therefore the fields he intends to graze in April need time to regrow a good cover.

Fertiliser

On the fertiliser side, as he is highly stocked and the farm is dry he needs to get fertiliser out to meet this demand. The plan once soil temperatures are >6oC and the ground conditions are good Sam will apply 15-20 units of nitrogen per acre in the form of protected urea. While protected urea at €950 per tonne seems expensive, CAN is priced at €700 per ton, meaning the price per kg of nitrogen is much cheaper with protected Urea. As well as being cheaper, protected urea is better for the environment as it has less green house gas emissions.

N TypeUrea 46%Protected UreaCAN - 27%N 
Cost/kg N  1.96 2.06 2.59
Urea €900/t, Protected urea €950/t, CAN €700/t (January 2022)

Costs may vary depending on fertiliser price

This first round of fertiliser will then be followed up with 1.5 bags of 18-6-12 per acre in early April. This will replace what P&K is removed by the animals in the year. I will look at my soil samples when they come back and see what else needs to be applied this year.

There is a lot of talk about not applying fertiliser as it is so expensive and of keeping cattle in sheds longer, but even at the higher prices grass is still a lot cheaper than meal or silage. Last year a bale of silage cost €25 to make, this year that will be more like €40. Concentrate prices are also increasing rapidly with quotes of €340/tonne and higher being common. On a per kg of DM basis, one kg of grazed grass costs 10 cents whereas silage will cost 18c/kg of DM and meal at €340 per tonne will cost 40 cent per kg DM.

These are very stark figures, but it is best knowing them now. Our key message here, is grass is still the cheapest form of feed, make the most of it. The silage you have in the pit is precious, keep it there. Do a fodder budget for next year, build in a buffer and only cut what you need.

Plan for Slurry

Based on current fertiliser prices, a normal slatted tank with high dry matter of slurry is worth approximately €51 per 1000 gallons, while more diluted slurry at 3% DM is worth €28 per 1000 gallons. 

As you can see slurry is very high in phosphorous (P) and most importantly potassium (K). Silage crops have a high demand for K and it is the K that give silage its bulk. If a 1st cut silage crop requires 80 units of N, 16 units of P and 100 units of K per acre, 3,000 gallons of slurry will meet the P & K requirement. You then have to top up the nitrogen using 1.3 bags of protected urea per acre. In Sam’s case, he has just enough slurry in his tanks to cover the silage ground and that is exactly what he plans to do.  


Future Beef Newsletter

The Future Beef Team are planning to compile and issue newsletter on a regular basis throughout the year, commencing later this year. The newsletter will have revelant time criticak information and advice. If you would like to receive the newsletter register your interest at the link below.


Spring Grass Walks

Teagasc have a series of Spring Grass Walks planned throughout the country over the coming weeks.  To see where your nearest walk is click on the link below or talk to your local Teagasc advisor. Spring Grass Walks details here