Farmer Focus: Feed change saves money

The new year got off to a great start as our best cow and Burke Trophy winner Prona had a heifer calf on 2 January. She will be 10 years old in May and this is her ninth calf.

This sort of regular breeding is wonderful and, more importantly, profitable. The cow herself doesn’t look any different than she did six years ago when I first saw her on a hill in Scotland. The calf is sired by Melview Gareth and looks incredibly promising.

We have had biblical amounts of rain and our river meadows are still underwater. I have never seen the fields so wet. We got the tag sheep off the lucerne and red clover leys on Boxing Day, which is ideal, and due to the higher than normal soil temperature, we have grass growing again. Luckily, we enlarged our slurry lagoon last year and have managed to stay within our NVZ rules. However, a dry week now to allow some application of dirty water would be helpful.

The quality of last year’s forage is really coming to the fore now as we have groups of finished cattle ready to go earlier than expected. We have changed from a 16% protein nut to a 14% blend following forage analysis and advice from Seth Wareing, who is the nutritionist at Blade Farming.

This change of feed is saving us about £70 a tonne, which rolls out to a potential extra £85 a carcass reduction in cost (we average 0.8t per finished carcass) for our Angus cross heifers. With other costs creeping up, this sort of saving is helpful.

We are excited to be sending a group of pedigree Angus in-calf heifers to Parma in Italy next week. We have been working with a group of farmers and vets who want to establish an Angus herd to supply beef to restaurants. They have been to the UK and have selected heifers and will be using the best AI bulls.

I think they will carve out a nice-sized niche for “British Bred Angus Beef”. One of the conditions of the deal is I have to go to Italy a couple of times a year to give some advice and sample the food and wine. It’s a tough life.

Paul Westaway farms in partnership with his wife Kirsty on a 69ha Gloucester County Council farm, running more than 220 Angus and Holstein Cattle. The pair also run an AI business and have recently launched an online steak and wine shop.

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