This article will outline the key factors that influence the profitability of suckler beef systems in Ireland. It has been adapted from a reproduced report courtesy of Teagasc.
I was very honoured and privileged to be chosen as one of 19 people from the UK to be presented as a Nuffield Farming Scholar for 2017, in Newcastle in late November last year, at the Nuffield Annual Conference.
A comprehensive dosing regime at housing is critical to remove worm and fluke infections, ensuring freedom from disease and maximum productivity of animals throughout the winter housing period. In addition, lice and mite burdens are removed, preventing rapid spread to others during close contact when housed.
Gatelands Farm, near Penrith, is owned and farmed by Andrew and Angela Barraclough and their two children James and Alysha.
It is a 300-acre farm and the business is comprised of 150 milking cows and replacements. In addition to the milk business the family also rears veal calves and fattens cattle for Lake District Farmers, which supplies the best restaurants in London. Most recently its veal has featured in the final of the Great British Menu!
How to improve the value of dairy-bred beef calves
As a farmer, you already know what makes your business tick. You don’t need us to tell you that optimising the value of each animal is the key to a successful business. But did you know the importance of the first three months in terms of maximising lifetime performance of your dairy-bred reared calves?
Why are the first three months of life so important?
The value of a beef calf is inextricably linked to growth rates and weight. What farmers may not fully appreciate is that reaching target growth rates requires tip-top respiratory health. Calves with lung damage don’t grow as well as they should. And the greater the lung damage, the greater the impact on daily liveweight gain.
Pneumonia is one of the most common calfhood problems. And it’s estimated that 67% of cases affect calves younger than three months old. Calves whose growth has been stunted by lung damage during the first few months of life, may never catch up. The link is clear: respiratory illness means poor growth which means reduced value.
How to improve respiratory health in reared beef calves
There are a few important steps in protecting your calves from respiratory illness:
- It’s important that newborn calves receive sufficient colostrum – which is packed with important antibodies
- Newborn calves should receive at least 10% of their bodyweight within their first twelve hours of life, half of which should ideally be given within two hours of birth
- Receiving sufficient colostrum is as important for bought in calves as it is for home reared ones, arguably more so
- When buying calves from known sources or direct from farm you can check this with the seller.
- The next step is to vaccinate against the common viruses that cause pneumonia in young calves. It’s perhaps one of the most important things you can do for their respiratory wellbeing
- Other key measures include ensuring calf housing is well ventilated, and draught-free, with plenty of dry clean bedding.
- Keeping young calves away from older cows and making sure no more than 30 animals share the same airspace will further reduce the risks.
Taking the time to get the simple things right helps ensure you minimise disease risk, and protect the health of your calves. Best of all, it will have a tangible impact on the lifetime productivity of your animals.
Wynnstay support responsible use of veterinary medicines and stock a large variety of vaccinations in order to improve the potential performance of your calves. Speak to your local SQP in store or local Wynnstay representative for further information and advice.
Finishing beef cattle on high starch diets has many known benefits not least being increased growth rate. With the current price of cereal feeds, it is currently an economical approach which can also improve carcass conformation and hence give higher returns per kilo.
The Williams family from Gwythrian, Aberdaron, have seen dramatic improvements in carcass weight gain by controlling costs, predominantly monitoring DLWG and intakes to improve performance and efficiency. Alan Williams farms with his wife Catrin and three sons, Dafydd, Will and Ieuan, at Gwythrian. Alan has seen a huge benefit in monitoring animal performance through each stage of beef production. Along with monitoring animal performance, intakes and costs are controlled after purchasing their Keenan 320 Mech Fibre.
Whether beef prices are on the up or on the way down, it is always possible to improve returns by increasing efficiency. The use of Biosprint live yeast in beef diets can help to do just that; the benefits include reduced cost per kilo live weight gain, a reduction in the overall feed bill and a faster turnaround of animals.
There has been much interest in recent years in outwintering systems for beef cattle. They have the potential to reduce costs and hence increase farm profitability. Out-wintering also offers the potential to increase herd size, within the constraints of NVZ restrictions without the substantial capital costs associated with housing and waste storage.
Welcome to the first edition of our Sheep and Beef newsletter. This is a dedicated publication for our customers; providing the latest industry updates alongside technical advice to help you get the most from your business. From analysing the new grant options that are available for livestock farmers, to the merits of out wintering beef, this edition brings together information and news from our Wynnstay specialists as well as leading industry experts.