Earlier slaughter date:On farms that traditionally slaughter cattle in mid-summer it may be worth changing things around this year.

High fertiliser costs will make grazing animals more expensive.

The beef trade is performing well at the moment and will likely continue on this trend for the first six months of 2022.

Indoor finishing could be an option for heavier cattle in the 500-600kg bracket over the next few months.

Finishers handling a lot of cattle will have locked into meal prices through purchasing groups or otherwise. Some of these deals have been completed at sub €300/tonne so it might make sense to capitalise on this for the first six months of 2022.

This will have the added effect of reducing your stocking rate at grass, so less fertiliser will be needed on the grazing area of farms. The other positive is that finishing cattle earlier will free up some funds in a year when more cash will be needed to pay bills.

High input costs can be dealt with when beef is a decent trade but it’s harder to suffer high input costs if beef prices come back at some point in the future.

Grazing and silage plans: As input prices continue to spiral you should be looking at ways of minimising risk on your farm.

Fertiliser and feed are two of the biggest costs on beef farms every year and these have seen the biggest increases over the last few months. Securing enough fertiliser for a first cut silage crop should be the first port of call. Having enough silage for next winter is very important.

There won’t be any surplus silage next winter so any deficit will be very expensive to fill. The best response you will get from fertiliser will be in April and May, so it makes sense to grow as much silage as you can during this time.

With less fertiliser spread on grazing ground, the temptation will be to eat into silage ground if things get tight in May.

Other options are reducing stocking rate or making sure you have enough grass for grazing through fertiliser applications before you eat into silage ground.

On drystock farms, 23 units/nitrogen or 25kg of urea/acre should be spread as soon as ground conditions allow to kick start grass growth and get animals out to grass. Weanlings should be targeted to get out to grass as soon as ground conditions allow.

Winter grass growth rates have been good on a lot of farms, so there is good grass supply. Getting your cattle out now to use up this grass and kick start growth on paddocks through grazing will help reduce costs in 2022. Once grazed, these paddocks should get a light application (1,500-2,000 gallons/acre) of slurry spread via a trailing shoe or dribble bar tanker.

Derogation deadline:2022 derogation applications open in mid-March and close on 14 April 2022. Farmers who exceeded or came close to the limits in 2021 should consider applying in 2022, as it caters for farmers to go above the stocking rate of 170kg N/ha/year up to 250kg N/ha/year. Farmers can login to agfood.ie to check their nitrogen and phosphorus statements for 2021.