David Maughan farms in partnership with his brother Peter on two farms totalling 272ha (425 acres) in Co.Durham on the Raby Estate. The grass acreage supports silage beef and an 18-month system. All the cattle, apart from a few purchased sucker heifers, are reared from bought Continental bull calves.
THE recent spell of dry weather has given us the welcome opportunity to make good progress with our early spring work, the silage leys receiving their first dressing of a 15:15:20 blend in early March. With the mild weather we hope that unlike last year grass growth will be off to a flying start.
Again unlike last year we did not experience severely low temperatures in the new year period. In fact the lack of penetrating frosts over winter gave us very few muck spreading opportunities, so the recent dry spell was a bonus in catching up on that overdue task.
Our cattle marketing season runs from February through to October, so it was with some trepidation that we made our opening draw in late February with a load of bulls at our local auction mart at Darlington. We returned home with a strong feeling of déjà vu.
It was interesting to compare returns to those in the opening draws of 1995 and 1996. In those two years we returned home with averages of 130.2p/kg and 129.7p/ kg respectively, on 600kg Con-tinental bulls, compared with 102p/kg this year.
Our second draw a fortnight later saw a much stronger market with an average of 105.1p/kg. If this was to be a more typical figure of what we might expect in the coming season then it would seem that the beef finisher is in for a second season of harsh medicine following the anniversary of BSE day.
Indeed it is interesting to reflect following this anniversary that if these figures follow through it would see averages fall by a massive 25p/kg or £115 on a typical 580kg animal compared with pre-BSE values.
With the current low prices and the prospect, according to informed opinion, that the European beef market will remain weak for some years to come, then it would seem there is a powerful force for the revaluation of many of the inputs that go into beef finishing systems.
A fine sentiment perhaps, but how can the value of our main input, the young calf, be brought down to more economic levels when the cull of bull calves continues to distort the market so much.
We recently placed 60 Con-tinental heifer calves in the pens at Denton. These are destined for the silage beef system, so it will be interesting to report their progress.n
It could be a second season of harsh medicine for beef finishers, says David Maughan. Sales this year have left an average of 25p/kg less compared with pre-BSE values.