THE NEED for beef cows and heifer replacements ideally suited to the farm will be even greater post-CAP reform, as the average unit will lose 140 for every calf sold at weaning, unless costs or income change.

MLC technical beef and sheep manager Duncan Pullar reckons it is unlikely suckled calf values will increase, placing greater pressure on finishers. “However, the best performing herds can make a profit at current prices without subsidy.

“Cost savings can be made with better management practices, but the biggest benefit will come from looking at how the system and animals suit on-farm resources, such as feed and buildings,” he explains.

“Matching cow weight to feed resources will have to be carefully considered. Quality grazing and adequate winter forage supplies will suit the larger Continental cross cows, with poorer grazing and forage suiting smaller native cross cow.” These factors will help get the optimum return for each kg of feed in the system, says Dr Pullar.

INDOOR CALVING 

Another expensive approach is to calve inside rather than waiting to calve outside and use grazed grass to support early lactation. “A six-week shift in calving date may reduce production costs and simplify housing requirements.”

Bringing easy-care cows into the system will help make savings on labour costs, he adds. “Included in this are easy-calving cows and bulls, but also consider using polled breeds to save on de-horning.”

But he does admit it”s hard to find a sire to produce both the suckler cows and finishers. “Use different breeds or individuals for replacements and finishing animals,” he advises.

All herds need a good replacement system either through buying in the right replacements or by breeding their own. “Smaller herds find it harder to manage breeding their own replacements than bigger herds. A producer with one bull will struggle to have a manageable replacement system unless they use artificial insemination.”

Herds with three stock bulls – 120 cows or more – have a better chance of breeding their own replacements and keeping a terminal sire bull, he adds.