Thrive dairy-beef calf purchases

As Declan Marren reported online over the weekend, calf purchasing for the Thrive programme has been halted due to the high calf prices over the last few weeks. We have had a lot of reaction to this, with many farmers expressing their concerns over high dairy-beef calf prices this spring.

Calf price plays a huge role in the economics of the system. If we pay too much for the calf on day one, it is nearly impossible to claw that expenditure back over its lifetime.

While dairy beef systems can seem small money to get into, it takes a lot of money to get out. Looking at figures from the Irish Farmers Journal Thrive demonstration farm for last year, excluding calf price, it takes €656/head variable costs (rearing costs, feed costs, vet, haulage and kill charges) plus another €300/head fixed costs, labour and land to bring these animals through to beef.

With an average carcase weight for heifers of 280kg and 322kg for steers achieved last year, a beef price of up to €4.55/kg would be required to leave a €100/head net margin at calf prices seen over the last few weeks.

Having a number of years’ experience of the system at this stage and knowing the performance levels of these animals, the programme farmers are not willing to pay over the odds for calves. In saying this, calf price has eased over the last few days and the programme is starting to purchase a small number of calves once again.

Quality assurance audits

Bord Bia continues to conduct Quality Assurance inspections online. This is only possible where farmers are comfortable with technology. You also need to have a good broadband connection, which many farmers and rural dwellers struggle with on an ongoing basis.

First you will receive your renewal letter. This will include a checklist of items covered as part of the audit, photos you need to take of the farm etc. The auditor will call you to arrange a time for the audit. They will send you a text message for the link to upload photos of farm records. You will need to take photos of animal sheds, feed storage areas, animal records, handling facilities and livestock. Photos need to be uploaded 14 hours before the audit. The auditor will call you to conduct the audit. It takes about 45 minutes. If there are issues, you have 30 days to rectify them. If you have any questions you can contact Bord Bia on 01-524 0410.

BETTER Farm NI webinar

On 11 March the BETTER farm NI beef programme will hold a webinar featuring three farmers who participated in the latest phase. They have some interesting stories to tell about the changes they made on their farms and why they made them. The webinar will also hear from advisers Francis Breen and Daryl Boyd about some of the key messages from the programme. The Webinar takes place at 8pm on Farmers can ask questions on the night or email them beforehand to or whatsapp 086 -836 6465. The webinar will feature a live question and answer session.