On 4 November, 13 more heifers and five bullocks were drafted for slaughter on the Thrive demo farm outside Cashel, Co Tipperary.

The remaining finishing cattle have now been housed.

This year’s calves are finishing off the last remaining heavy covers of grass before being housed in the coming days.

Kill results

The five bullocks drafted last week had an average carcase weight of 324kg and graded O+3+ coming into an average value of €1,395/head.

The 13 heifers averaged a carcase weight of 263kg graded O=3+ and came to an overall value of €1,130/head.

Grass performance

In total, 85 of the 141 cattle have been slaughtered off grass, which equates to 60% of all stock. Within this, just nine heifers remain to be drafted, the majority of which are late-maturing breed types. This means over 80% of the heifers were slaughtered off grass at an average carcase weight of 265kg.

For the bullocks, just 45% have been drafted for slaughter off grass at an average carcase weight of 317kg. The remainder have now been housed and are being fed good-quality grass silage (72DMD) plus 5kg of a finishing ration.

2020 vs 2021

The drafting rate off grass this year is well up on the 2020 performance with 63% of heifers and 325 of bullocks being slaughtered off grass last year.

While the farm has drafted a greater number of cattle off grass this year, compared to last it has come at the expense of around 10kg of carcase weight.

However, as reported before, this reduction in carcase weight is more than offset by the earlier slaughter date and savings in feed and labour.

The other difference is that due to the decent grass growth and ground conditions this back end, being able to keep cattle out for around 10 days longer this year, this most recent draft off grass is a bonus compared to 2020.

Learnings from 2021

Despite having a decent proportion of cattle drafted off grass, the late-maturing breed types continue to be an issue when it comes to achieving a sufficient level of finish off grass plus meal.

The farm has proved this for the last three years and so, in future, instead of trying to finish as many cattle off grass as possible, it may be best to house these types of animals at an earlier date, increase the level of meal feeding to them and try to bring forward their slaughter date in this way.

Housing space on the demo farm allows for some finishing cattle to be wintered but on a farm where all housing is needed for this year’s stock, earlier housing for these breed types would be the best option.

Longer term, it needs to be questioned whether these animals fit the system you are trying to implement and whether the beef price and/or carcase weight in spring is going to be sufficient enough to justify bringing them through to slaughter out of the shed to leave a positive margin.