Last year was particularly difficult for beef and sheep producers as the rains poured down and input costs soared. These challenges were acknowledged during the final meeting of the UFU Grass/Clover Monitor Group which convened before Christmas at the Abbey Farm in Greenmount.
The UFU group enjoyed an informative and topical discussion which focused on winter feeding options, assessing both silage quantity and quality (given that both are likely to be down owing to weather conditions) to carefully plan this year’s feeding in an effort to keep costs under control without compromising stock performance.
The message was clear; do your sums! The group acknowledged the importance of calculating costings in early winter to prepare for the expensive housing period ahead and also to look forward to spring turnout. When feeding cattle, the need to weigh them regularly was strongly emphasised in order to ensure their weight gain covers feeding costs. Silage analysis can also be beneficial in determining feed plans, whilst the value of condition scoring and feeding accordingly was also discussed.
Remaining optimistic is not always easy in a difficult climate but the group were determined to look forward to an early spring turnout and commented on the need to plan for it in advance.
Maximising compensatory growth and avoiding condition loss was mentioned in the context of preparing to ease off meal feeding before turn out.
Host farmer David Hylands’ benchmarking figures were also reviewed during the visit to identify areas for improvement. David plans to increase the size of his suckler enterprise with focus on tightening up his calving pattern. He will also continue with the rotational grazing system that was set up when the group was established, which he says has been an integral part of improving his grassland management and helping to drive costs down. To enhance this further he intends to conduct more soil sampling, remain mindful of the need to avoid soil compaction and prepare a grazing plan to identify certain areas for different batches of stock. When selling his stock he will assess his options to determine whether selling live or through to slaughter is most profitable.
The UFU group has enjoyed several interesting visits and each member has been given food for thought on how to improve their own enterprise in some way. The UFU would like to thank CAFRE for all their help and support in setting up the UFU group, with particular thanks to Albert Johnston for his dedication, time and effort in coordinating the meetings, and lastly but not least to David Hylands for hosting the group.