Farmers currently finishing store cattle purchased back in autumn are incurring losses of up to £100/head once all costs are included, analysis by the Irish Farmers Journal shows.

Prices have come under pressure in recent weeks but have since settled between 480p and 485p/kg for U grading steers and heifers, with young bulls trading around 470p/kg.

Current prices are running 15p to 20p/kg above market returns back in late autumn, but even at factory prices of 485p/kg, prime steers and heifers finished under high levels of management are losing money.

Our analysis is based on a farmer running an efficient finishing enterprise, who purchases continental steers capable of finishing as U grades.

Animals are bought on 1 October at an average 550kg liveweight and at a conservative price of 280p/kg, which equates to a cost of £1,540/head.

Steers are stored for 90 days on 25kg/day of above average quality silage costing £28/t, along with 3kg/day of concentrate, costing £300/t. Feed costs during the store period come to £71/head.

At the start of January, stores move onto an intensive finishing diet for 100 days, consuming an average 7kg/day of concentrate (£290/t) and 20kg of silage (£28/t). Total costs for this period are £243/head.

Veterinary costs include £10/head for fluke, worm and lice treatments, plus a further £5/head for miscellaneous costs.

Fixed costs of 75p/day to cover machinery running costs, shed maintenance, electricity etc. are included and equate to £142/head.


That brings all input costs to a breakeven of £2,011, which rises to £2,061 when a modest £50 margin is factored in.

Weight gain during the store period is 0.5kg/day or 45kg, increasing to 1.2kg/day or 120kg over the 100-day finishing period. That takes animals to an average final liveweight of 715kg, which at 57% kill-out yields a 407kg carcase.

At the outlined finishing costs, the farmer needs a break-even price of 494p/kg to cover direct inputs, rising to 506p/kg with the £50 margin included.

Read more

Five tips for dehorning calves

Beef price update: quotes bounce back