Finishing cull cows: Suckler cows that have been scanned and are not in-calf should be marked for culling. Some farmers will opt to sell these cows in the live ring (cull cows are currently making between €1.40/kg and €1.60/kg, depending on condition and type), while some will opt to finish them. Spring-calving cows that are not in-calf should be weaned early, ideally once the calf is around 250kg liveweight. In general, cows are in good body condition with the present grazing conditions. Weaning now will mean the cow has a shorter finishing period and this will save money. Delaying weaning into late autumn runs the risk of the cow losing condition and then you will have to feed concentrates to build that back up again and this will erode any profit margin that may be there. Suckler cows are capable of a daily liveweight gain (DLWG) of 0.8kg/day once weaned. A continental suckler cow weaned at condition score 3 should take 50-60 days to finish, while a cow weaned at condition score 2.5 could take 90 days to finish. She will also require housing. With good-quality grass, feeding 5kg/day of rolled barley should be sufficient. If a concentrate mix is being used at €210/t this will cost up to €1.00/day. Counting in grazing, the daily feed cost for the cow will be around €1.30/day. Taking a cow beef price of €3.00/kg at a kill out of 52%, at 0.8kg DLWG, the cow is generating €1.30/day which will just about cover feed costs. If a cow has to be housed, feed costs will rise to close to €2/day on silage and 6kg of rolled barley to continue the same weight gain, with the margin uneconomical.
Ground conditions: Ground conditions continue to be difficult, particularly in the northwest of the country. Heavy rain has meant grass utilisation isn’t where it should be. Some farmers have weaned early, housed cows and turned weanlings back out to graze until conditions improve. Lighter stock will do less damage to wetter paddocks. If feeding in troughs or creep feeders, try to move them around to avoid excessive damage.