A HUGE variation in weight gain and feed conversion for beef cattle finished over-winter on Irish units highlights a need to improve management to maintain profits.
Research by Donal Buckley of Teasgascs Grange Research Centre, Dunsany, shows daily liveweight gains of 1.42kg/head/day for steers and 1.35kg/head for heifers can be achieved by cattle in winter finishing systems. But few cattle in a study of 10 beef units achieved 1kg/day liveweight gain.
Daily gains varied from 0.73kg/head to 1.06kg/head, while feed conversion, on a dry matter basis, varied from 9.5:1 to 15.1:1.
All 10 farms used grass silage as the main forage with fodder beet being another cheap and commonly used ingredient. The most efficient beef cattle achieved a cost/kg liveweight gain of 86p/kg and the worst £1.71/kg.
After accounting for differences in buying and selling prices, Mr Buckley said some producers were left after accounting for feed with a margin of £5 to cover all other production costs.
Other producers achieved a margin of £80/head.
Mr Buckley remarked that results highlighted tremendous scope to improve output and profits from beef enterprises on almost all units. With a reliance on export trade for finished cattle and low EU prices, that must be a priority, he said.