The impact of this summer and autumn's weather is very evident throughout the country.
While the short-term effect on forage quantity and quality is clearly visible, the long-term effect on pasture quality due to the damage at grazing and lack of opportunity for grass reseeding this autumn will take some time to be overcome.
These poor weather conditions have resulted in most categories of stock being well behind their target.
Spring-born weanling calves that haven't been heavily supplemented are way behind their weight targets, so it is vital they are receiving a suitable creep mix at this stage.
Store and yearling animals are showing the strain of this year's grazing season.
Most animals are lacking in 'flesh' and when eventually housed will take time to recoup body condition.
The impact of the weather on the suckler cow herd is unquantifiable at the moment but early indications are that poor conception rates will be a problem on a lot of farms.
Obviously these empty cows will have a negative effect on next year's plans.
There will be fewer calves on the ground next year so consideration must be given as to what is the best option for these cows going forward.
It is important to factor in forage quantity and quality when deciding whether to hold these cows for breeding in spring 2014, attempt to breed them in autumn 2013 or fatten them for slaughter.
The global supply of beef still gives opportunities to Irish farmers. Apart from increased slaughter numbers in the US, the global supply is still running very tight.
This will also be the case in Ireland. This should underpin the Irish beef price for the coming winter but it would be optimistic to expect prices to exceed last year's levels.
Hence, very careful consideration needs to be taken before starting a winter feeding programme.
With the unprecedented high feed costs, poor forage quality and with most animals lacking in 'flesh', the cost of producing a kilogram of beef will be significantly higher than in recent years.
The challenge for each individual producer will be to maximise the efficiency at which they use their feed.
As in the pig and poultry industry, the benchmark for profitability is feed efficiency.
Those involved in the beef fattening industry need to begin to implement feeding systems that will improve feed efficiency.
The target needs to be to produce well-finished, consistent carcases at the youngest age possible and suited to the market. The processing industry clearly requires well-fleshed, lighter carcases that are suitable to process and pass on to the retail industry.
The older and heavier the animal, the less attractive to processors it is. These animals are also less efficient to produce.
Traditional steer finishing with typically an animal of 700-800kg at 30+ months is probably the least efficient indoor finishing system from a feed conversion point of view.
This translates into a feed efficiency of 14:1. This means 14kg of dry matter feed is needed to produce 1kg of gain.
The same animal slaughtered at 600kg and 24 months of age will have a feed efficiency of 12:1.
This is 15pc more efficient than the previous system, which given higher feed costs can result in significant savings and improved margins.
Steps that will improve feed efficiency:
nHave a target to finish the animals at a younger age;
nSet measurable performance targets and take action to ensure these are met;
nMaximise average daily gain (kg/day) from birth to slaughter;
nImplement feeding strategies and select quality ingredients;
nEnsure good housing practices and herd health issues are dealt with as a priority.
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