Poor grass growth on the highly stocked grazing platform, a higher than anticipated replacement rate, lower output and increased concentrate and fertilizer costs have resulted in a 44% reduction in the estimated gross margin (GM) figures of the Derrypatrick herd this year.
In 2011 the GM was €1153/ha, but the predicted GM for the herd in 2012 has been estimated downwards to €640.
Table 1 shows the financial performance of the herd in 2011 and the estimated costs for 2012. Lower output in terms of kg carcaseweight/ha will reduce the estimated 2012 GM by 16%; weather effects are estimated to reduce it by 20% while input price inflation makes up the remainder.
The reduced output value was driven mainly by the lower value of bull and heifer sales, combined with an increase in replacement costs. In 2011, 20 replacement heifers were purchased at an average cost of €900 per head. In 2012, the number of replacements purchased rose to 25 at an average cost of approximately €1,500 per head. This, combined with a slightly reduced value of cull cows, saw a major increase in the overall replacement costs for the herd in 2012.
The poor weather and grazing conditions through this summer has had a severe negative effect on concentrate costs. Overall concentrate usage increased from 93 tonnes in 2011 to an estimated 136 tonnes in 2012. This increased total concentrate costs by €192/ha. Due to poor ground conditions and low levels of grass growth, bulls were housed on 9 May, some eight weeks sooner than anticipated, and remained housed until finished for slaughter. The heifers were housed on 15 July for finishing. Replacement heifers were let back out to pasture once ground conditions improved.
€9,000 spent on silage
Silage making was a particular problem on the farm. The first cut silage was closed on 10 April to be harvested in the first week of June. Approximately 44% of the first cut silage area was needed for grazing in May, which reduced overall yield. The second cut was harvested on 5 September, about four and a half weeks later than planned. Approximately 50% of the total winter silage requirement was made on the farm in 2012. This left a shortfall of approximately 300 tonnes of silage, which was purchased at 30% dry matter at a cost of €30/tonne.
Factoring in the €9,000 expense on additional silage, the silage costs for 2012 were €29/ha less than the previous year. The reason for this was, firstly, the nitrogen applied for silage was spread in a split application, thus allowing for ground to be grazed if required. In addition, the purchased silage was cheaper compared with the cost of growing silage on the farm. However, it should be noted that the quality of silage purchased was less than that produced on the farm. For this reason, additional concentrate supplementation has been factored into the system. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of estimated feed budgets for 2011 and 2012.
In 2012, 110 cows calved down on the farm and 99 live calves are currently on the ground after a mortality rate of 11%.
Table 2 shows the performance of cows and calves until late August. Once again, calves born to the Limousin Friesian cross cows (LF) experienced the highest growth rates, averaging 1.23kg liveweight gain per day - driven by the high milk yield of the cow. The lowest liveweight gain of 0.99kg/day was recorded by calves from the Charolais Limousin crosses (CL).
Calving difficulty was not a major issue on the farm. The LF cows had the highest calving difficulty score across the breeds while the CL cows had the lowest.
Table 3 shows the pregnancy rate of the various breeds. Breeding started on 19 April, one week earlier than last year, and continued for a 12-week period. Replacement heifers were bred to a Blonde d'Aquataine bull while the cows were put in calf to a Charolais. By housing finishing stock, the cows were kept outdoors at grass throughout the breeding season and were not supplemented.
Half of the herd was scanned in June and all cows were cycling. The LF cows had the highest conception rates at 88% with the CS cows having the lowest of 74%.
The conception rate of the entire herd was approximately 82%, below the target of 90%.
Table 4 shows the performance of each breed type up to slaughter.
In 2011, all cattle slaughtered were sired by Blonde d'Aquataine while in 2012 the cattle slaughtered were bred 50% to Belgian blue sires and 50% to Limousin and Simmental sires. The sire used on the LF cows was predominantly Belgian Blue.
The progeny from the LF cows were heaviest at weaning (338kg), driven mainly by milk yield. The LS progeny weighed 20kg less at weaning while the CL progeny were 39kg lighter.
Daily gains at pasture for progeny from all four groups were from 0.36kg/day (LS) to 0.68kg/day (LF) behind that achieved by the same group last year. This is a direct result of poor grazing conditions, a shorter time at grass and different sires used.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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