Report: Brian Donaldson

Photos: John McVitty

A large group of beef farmers from Fermanagh travelled to this year’s ‘Beef 2022’ event at Teagasc’s Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre at Grange, Co. Meath in July.

With the theme of 'Supporting Sustainable Beef Farming', there was a focus on future regulations including carbon emission targets and the increased costs in production due to the high prices of fuel, fertiliser and feed.

The first stop examined which beef system was best suited to individual farms, whether that was sucklers, rearing calves, stores and taking into consideration labour availability.

With over half of all beef farmers having an off-farm income, then this must be considered when looking at the scale of the farming operation.

Farmers should set performance targets whether for suckler cow to beef or beef from the dairy herd.

For sucklers, the first calving should be at 24 months, with 80 per cent of the herd calving within a six-week period and calving interval of 365 days.

The spring-born suckler steer should reach 315kgs at the start of the first winter, 380kgs at the start of the second grazing season, 580kgs by the second winter, and if finishing from the house, achieving a liveweight of 640kgs or if grazing a third season, achieving a weight of 730kgs or 410kgs dw.

For spring-born dairy steer, the final liveweight should be around 680kgs or 340kgs dw.

Teagasc staff says genetics can play an important role with Commercial Beef Value (CBV) for non-breeding beef cattle.

This focuses on carcase and feed efficiency traits, with the aim to use 5-star sires which produce calves on average 19kgs heavier at weaning.

Many factors contribute to the efficiency of farms; good soil pH, good infrastructure, extending the grazing season, etc.

With regard to handling animals for the right fat cover, they used the following advice;

A – Tailhead

B – Rump

C – Loin

D – Ribs

E – Folds of skin

They said management can improve performance through more efficient use of available resources, boosting economics and environmental returns.

Looking at costs, Teagasc say options to reduce inputs include soil testing, using protected urea as opposed to CAN, LESSE slurry applications, using clover in swards and having increased grass utilisation.

To reduce meal, make high-quality silage, finish cattle earlier and get a better performance from grass. They also advised reducing the fuel bill by cutting back on some jobs such as topping.

Teagasc also looked at the implications and options for increased costs on beef farms in 2022, with high increases in meal prices, contractor charges up by an estimated 25 per cent, fertiliser prices two and a half times higher on average, and some increases in variable and fixed costs.

For example, on dairy calf to beef systems, total production costs have been estimated to be 4.95 Euro per kg carcase weight in 2022, as compared to 3.62 Euro per kg in 2021 – an increase of 37 per cent.

It is unlikely that output prices will offset the increased costs at farm level, they say.

Apart from the fixed stands where the above information was given to farmers, those attending could explore the Technology Village, looking at the environment, grassland, dairy to beef systems, growing and finishing cattle, meat quality and advisory services.