Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics
Placeholder image

Value for Money in Challenging Times

18 November 2019
Type Media Article

By Colm Kelly, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare

The following article aims to stimulate improvements in business management and meal feeding practices for readers. If you are experiencing issues on farm or would benefit from an Adviser’s opinion on your farms development, contact your Adviser to arrange a farm visit or consultation.

Value in Business:

Next time you are going to make a purchase try the ‘three quote rule’. Price equivalent quality inputs with three different suppliers and go with the best value provider. Farm insurance, feed and veterinary products are examples where there is competition in the market which can be exploited. One pitfall that must be stressed is to avoid choosing a cheaper input which is of significantly poorer quality. Loyalty to suppliers is typically not rewarded in the modern day as there is little need to incentivise a ‘lazy customer’ who is unlikely to switch. Despite many beef farms registering significant financial losses on production there is still margins on agricultural inputs been achieved. The scope is there to erode some of this margin by competition for your benefit. The time spent is valued by the cumulative savings produced ‘if you don’t spend it you don’t have to earn it’ and may offer some small relief for drystock farmers in particular. I know of one farmer involved in the high input poultry business that is a keen advocate of this rule and often can be quoted as saying ‘a small difference per tonne, over 12 months, becomes a holiday in the sun!’

Concentrate Ingredients:

I recently visited a farmer who was having issues with disappointing fat scores and his finishing period was significantly longer than would be expected. He had continually increased the feed level as the response was so poor. The factory agent had been out to view the stock and said that the concentrates been fed was the likely problem. When I viewed the feed label the ingredients were very poor quality. I asked what the price per tonne was assuming it was the cheapest concentrate on offer and was surprised to learn it was priced similar to concentrates containing good energy ingredients. The farmer added Barley to the concentrates that were left which boosted performance until the next feed delivery.  This is a common find on farm visits and in truth this beef finisher has been relatively lucky. While the difference in quality became apparent on high levels of feeding and through the fat scores achieved. The reality is that at lower levels of feeding such as to weanlings the losses in performance are often missed. A lot of farmers don’t look at the label of what they are purchasing mainly because they are not sure what they should be looking for:

Rules of Thumb:

  1. The name of the mix means very little and is just a marketing tool. You will never see a bag named ‘Not Very Good Mix’.
  2. Check the first 4-5 ingredients at least which will be in descending order of inclusion. Barley, Maize, Soya Bean Meal, Distillers grains, Citrus/Beet pulp are all good ingredients. In the current market Barley is hard to beat and should be the mainstay of the ration which means it should be first on the list. Wheat feed (Pollard), Sunflower or Palm Kernal add little and shouldn’t appear in the first 4 ingredients if at all.
  3. Crude Protein is not indicative of quality. Ingredients could have poor quality protein but still give a relatively high crude protein percentage. With good quality ingredients weanlings generally require 16% protein & finishing cattle 12-14%. These can vary considerably as they are highly dependent on the protein levels in the silage which can only be attained through silage testing.
  4. If in doubt check. Suppliers will give you ingredient lists for comparison so why not consult your adviser before making a choice.

Another issue with meal feeding I come across is using small bags. These are fine where there is only a very small amount of feed required such as for getting stock in. Where more significant amounts are been fed you will find yourself paying in the region of €20-30 per tonne more over loose ration. If you are buying small bags multiply the cost per bag by 40 (40 bags in a tonne) to give the cost per tonne for comparison.

Figure 1: Ready Reckoner for Crude Protein %.

part of Media Article