The deadline for spreading artificial nitrogen and phosphorus has passed and having monitored fertiliser use closer than before, the focus now moves to ration costs and use.

There won’t be as dramatic a reduction in use with that in comparison to fertiliser, but the groundwork in reducing its use has been under way for a few years.

Figuring out where to make the further cost cutbacks without compromising stock is the next step.

For the last number of winters it hasn’t been part of the daily diet for replacement heifers. Last winter they got 2kg a week from Christmas and that could be pulled back to one and maybe only one from late January.

Letting them develop a taste for it proves useful when labour is scarce, so it’s good for them to know about it.

Last winter the smaller weanlings were fed on earlier in the winter before being eased off ahead of going to grass and it worked well. It allowed a few poor performers to catch up and they are likely to be in the first draft of heifers to go when the time comes.

They required a smaller quantity than they would have as finishing stock in 12 months’ time so there was good bang for my buck. The wilder heifer weanlings got the same treatment and it went a long way in making them more manageable when yard work was required.

The smallest of the weanlings are the only calves on ration at the moment and it could stay like that for a while.

Suckler cows have an unending appetite when it comes to ration so I’ll probably split them into those in poorer condition and offer them some and keep the fleshier cull cows on a silage only diet after weaning.

Young bulls

That leaves me with the young bulls who have the highest demand when it comes to meal. I’ll be sticking with the U16 month bull system as it’s so hard to look beyond their efficiency.

The youngest three bulls were castrated in 2020, so for the first time in a long time I had something to compare bulls against bullocks.

They ended up being around for 250 days longer than the young bulls and had a carcase weight 13kg lighter.

There wouldn’t have been much difference in the volume of meal they consumed over their lifetime either. After those results there’s little incentive to change system.

They were left on the cow later and silage is used for the entire finishing period instead of straw, so feed levels were closer to 1t than 1.1t.

There’s not much wiggle room in terms of their diet, so reducing ration demand elsewhere should keep costs manageable. Minding concentrates, concentrates the mind you could say.

Cost increases will affect every household and business this winter and what impact could that have on farmgate prices?

Energy price hikes will put pressure on consumer spending around food and that’s reflected in the strong performance of prices for beef throughout the year. The price differential between young stock and dry cows has narrowed significantly over the last while.

Cheaper and versatile products such as mince are likely to be more in demand than steaks. If cows are predominantly used for those products is there a possibility cow prices could surpass prime beef If that does occur I may need to reevaluate the meal plan.