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Opportunity to Clear the Decks


You'd have to look back to 2013 to see beef prices similar to what we have today which is great to see even if it is not as frequent as we might like. Aidan Murray, Teagasc Beef Specialist says tight cattle supplies at home and internationally plus positive global demand all point to a good back end

Predictions from Bord Bia suggest that cattle slaughterings for the remainder of 2021 will still be behind 2020 figures by up to 45,000 head. This would equate to 2,000 head a week less for the remainder of the year. So even if prices ease from the current highs, tight cattle supplies at home and internationally and positive global demand all point to a good back end.

Consider a stock tidy-up now

With this in mind it might be a good time to consider a stock tidy up. Cow prices in particular are very buoyant with factory prices ranging from €3.50-4.00/kg for P to U grades respectively. Similarly for individual cow sellers of finished cows through the marts prices from €2.00-2.60/kgLw are achievable based on cow type.

Now is a good time to sit down or better still walk through the field and cast a critical eye over the suckler herd. What cows are you not happy with? Start with cows that may be late calving or not back in-calf which you can only determine through an early scan so organise one if your cows are at least 30 days in-calf.

Cow prices in particular are very buoyant

Which cows are persistently difficult to calve, are poor mothers to their calves or are clearly lacking in milk? Which cows have low pendulous udders or bulbous teats after calving that makes it difficult for the calf to suck naturally and invariably costs you time.

Then there is temperament. What about the cow that tends to lose the plot, at calving and for the 10 days afterwards. She is a very real danger to you, other family members and visitors to your farm at that time. A prime candidate for a one way ticket in a year of good cow prices don’t you think?

It will be so much easier to make the culling decision if you have a number of suitable replacements lined up. Any cows identified to go should ideally should be out with a view to weaning them that bit earlier so that so that the calf is on creep prior to weaning and the cow can be fed 2-3 kg of meal for the month prior to sale if she needs it. The aim should be to have these cows ready for sale off grass and not be forced to have to finish them inside in the shed, although cows that are thin may need to be fed indoors for a period.

Keeping BDGP and BEEP-S in mind

As with any potential change from normal practice it comes with a caveat. A number of you out there will be participating in the BDGP rollover for 2021 and you must keep an eye on the requirement to have sufficient (50% of your reference figure) 4&5 star genotyped eligible females on hand on the 31st October 2021. So just make sure that culling cows does not impact on this requirement.

Equally if you are participating in Beep S and have selected meal feeding or vaccination tasks ensure that you are compliant with regard to the correct time of introducing meal feeding or vaccination prior to weaning the calf.

Selling stores - an option for some

I have specifically mentioned the selection of cows for sale. However, if current store prices remain buoyant, some thought will also have to be put into looking at budgets for selling or keeping cattle over the coming winter to optimise returns. It is a good position to be in and certainly an opportunity to clear the decks of underperforming or problem stock.

The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to suckler & cattle farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily