8 December 2000

Cattle not the way to boost incomes

MIXED farms trying to find ways to bolster incomes are best to avoid investing more in cattle.

According to Teagasc adviser Pat Mahon, keeping more cattle rarely increases profits. Mr Mahon said both enterprises, cattle and sheep, gave low returns.

In general, there was little difference in income between the two, with both resulting in an average income of £170-£200/ha (£70-£80/acre), he said. "Even the most efficient struggle to achieve more than £130/acre."

Producers considering boosting income often ask if they should expand ewe numbers or if they will make more money and have an easier life by getting out of sheep.

"When you think getting out of sheep into cattle is the answer, then it certainly is not. Gross margin a hectare is generally a little better on a sheep farm."

Reorganising a business by increasing suckler cows and decreasing sheep is like moving deckchairs, he said. "More often than not, you end up where you started."

He said investment in cattle, suckler cow premium and buildings was much higher compared with investing in ewes and ewe premium.

That extra investment may put your business at unbearable risk, he said. Increasing suckler numbers by 50 head may lead to £1250/ha (£500/acre) in extra borrowing. &#42