In November last year, Tullamore Farm manager Shaun Diver castrated seven of the lightest bull weanlings, as he felt they were not suited to an under-16-month bull beef system.
“They were a mixture of the last few calves born, all late-March and April calves, as well as a couple that maybe got a touch of pneumonia as calves and their performance had been poorer than average.
"They would have been weighing from 240kg to 290kg at that time in early November. I just felt for the amount of meal that they were going to eat, they weren’t going to have a heavy enough carcase weight to cover the costs, so we chose to castrate them and run them at grass this year.”
The first four bullocks were sold in the last week of November this year. They averaged just shy of 590kg and came into €1,240/head (€2.11/kg). The final three went to the mart this week and averaged 557kg, coming into €1,417/head on average or €2.54/kg.
Commenting on the sale performance, Shaun said: “The second batch of bullocks were a much better bunch. The first four had good weight, but were plainer and the price reflected that.
I didn’t think they would make that but trade was on fire
"The price per kilo this week did surprise me – I didn’t think they would make that but trade was on fire on the day and I guess that’s just the way it goes – we were lucky to have cattle in for the sale.
"When we average it out over both lots, it comes to €1,315/head at under 20 months old.
"They have a bit of meal ate alright – they were getting 4kg/day in the shed for the last month or so and were getting 2kg/day at grass in autumn as well.
"When you do the sums on it compared to the bulls gone at under 16 months, there probably isn’t a whole lot in it.”
Looking to this year’s batch of bull weanlings, Shaun has just run them over the scales this week and they are averaging 380kg at the moment. That is an average daily liveweight gain of around 0.8kg/day since housing.
“That period has seen them housed and their diet changed, so it is always the period of the lowest daily gains in the bulls’ lives. Now that it is over them, they will kick on and I am very happy with how they are looking.”
There are perhaps four lighter bulls that may struggle to hit the under-16-month system next year. However, Shaun has decided to feed them on and not to squeeze any bull this year.
“As I said, I don’t see much in it between the two systems when all is taken into account.
"In saying that, you have to remember that the bullocks sold were the worst calves of the year, so we are not comparing like with like.
"However, with the way fertiliser prices are looking for next year, every mouth less on the farm will be a help, so we will finish them all as bulls next summer.”