WATCH: 'Bull systems can deliver a very high margin'


Padraig French from Teagasc spoke about profitable dairy-beef systems at the 2019 Teagasc Dairy Calf-to-Beef event at Johnstown Castle

“If you want to get into dairy-beef production, judge of the supply of calves that are coming from the dairy herd,” he advised.

Mr French said the dairy herd has increased by approximately 500,000 cows over the past ten years and has also a lot more compact calving due to good fertility rates.

“Over 90% of the calves born into a dairy herd are born in the February /March period,” he stated.

Figures show that approximately 40% of the 1,000,000 calves that are available for bull production are Friesian males, born predominantly in February.

The rest of the calves born are early-maturing Hereford and Angus calves, predominantly March-born, or late-maturing continental calves, also predominantly March-born.

The most profitable systems carrying them through to beef

Bull systems;

  • Can deliver a very high margin if the beef price goes right,

  • Very easy to get good animal performance,

  • Very high risk - your entire margin could be wiped out by a small change in beef price.

  • Do not consider this system of bull beef production without first locking down, when the animals are going to be killed, where and at what price they’re going to be killed.

Steer systems;

  • More focused on grass - If you can get good animal performance at grass and kill them at a young age, you can get higher profitability,

  • Look at killing them at the end of the second grazing or finishing them through the winter,

  • If you’re killing them at the end of the second season, there tends to be higher margins per hectare because you have more animals sold and you’re finishing them on a grass-based diet,

  • If you’re finishing them during the winter, silage quality becomes more important,

  • Finishing them off grass at the end of the second season tends to be more profitable.

Issues with early-maturing animals;

  • You need to ensure that they hit the in-spec bonus of an O = or better,

  • That depends on the calves' genetics - you need good-quality Hereford and Angus calves,

  • You need to get high performance of grass and you need to finish them as young as possible,

  • It will increase profitability and reduce the carbon footprint of these animals.

Image source: Teagasc \ Youtube

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