Higher input costs will push plenty of suckler farmers to consider lowering in stocking levels to reduce their reliance on fertiliser and concentrate.
Knowing when to offload stock and having animals in a saleable condition will help maximise the sale value of cattle.
Target selling stores and poor-performing animals first. Where possible, hold productive cows and replacement heifers to make sure there is cattle for sale in the autumn and next year.
For farmers thinking about reducing cattle numbers, outlined are some stocking groups to consider selling over the next few weeks.
Beef markets are in a positive place and prices are edging upwards. Specialist finishers and buyers for factory feedlots are extremely active for short-keep cattle, ie animals that can be killed within 30 to 70 days from purchase.
Therefore, cattle that are coming close to slaughter weight and carrying a good covering of flesh may be worth cashing in on now.
This will cut out a lot of concentrate feeding and with ration prices set to rise further, there is a huge cost saving to be had.
For example, steers eating 8kg/day over the next 60 days will consume close to 0.5t of concentrate. This could cost anywhere from €180 to €190 per head.
There is also merit in offloading stores that could potentially be slaughtered off grass over the summer or by early autumn.
Ideally, heifers are best suited to this market and having some level of Angus or Hereford breeding can be beneficial in getting animals to the correct fat cover without an over-reliance on concentrate.
Cattle weighing 400kg to 450kg in spring would be best suited to this market.
Autumn cows that are not back in calf at this stage, have poor milking ability, bad quarters, feet issues and a poor temperament should be marked for sale.
Don’t be tempted to let these cows slip in to the spring herd. Early weaning can help cows regain body condition, improving sale value.
With growing demand for manufacturing beef, good-quality cows are in demand. Culling these animals will improve cashflow and reduce the pressure on grazing through spring and summer.
For a March- and April-calving suckler herd, cows that will not calve until May or even June are worth cashing in on.
These animals will be out of sync with the majority of the herd, but may fit in with another farmer’s calving setup.
In most herds, it is usually only a handful of cows that run late and give extra hassle. So this could be the year to move them on.
Spring-calving cows that lose at calf in labour, or shortly afterwards for various reasons, should also be culled.
Margins in suckling are tight and with inputs rising, is it worth the cost and hassle of buying a calf to cross-foster?
Certainly, if another cow in the herd has a set of twins, then cross-fostering is worth a go, as there is no expense in purchasing another calf and no disease risk coming in to the herd.
But if a calf has to be purchased, then it may be more economical to sell the cow.
Again, this option will apply to small numbers of cows. But such cows can generate valuable cashflow.