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teaser bull can be useful in assisting in heat detection for
AI. Even where a stock bull is exclusively used the ability
to gather information on heats and services is hugely
valuable in running a suckler herd."
Whole herd profitability
It continues to be a huge challenge to deliver a profit
from suckler farming. Whole herd profitability allows a
clear picture to emerge as to the financial status of the
suckler herd: "It's all based around making money from
the business. Whole herd profitability was a key aspect
of the Suckler Breeding Event. Looking at the top ten
cows in the Kildalton herd versus the bottom ten cows
in terms of performance, based on the Star system,
allowed us to examine what extra profit accrued from
the progeny of the top ten cows. Doing that exercise on
any suckler herd should allow good comparisons to be
made. That can hammer home the message, if we see a
financial di erence there is in the best cows compared to
the rest of a herd. Pearse Kelly gave an in-depth look at
performance levels within suckler herds and across herds.
While AI use in suckler herds is more awkward than for
dairy farms, it is not impossible and the Kildalton Event did
point to some useful tips around use of AI."
Beef markets have, in recent times been working against
profitability. It is clear that Brexit has had an influence and
the uncertainty regarding potential tari s on Irish beef
being exported to Britain have dampened prices. It may
be some time yet before there is a clear picture of future
trading conditions between here and our nearest and
most important beef trading partner. Despite the ongoing
uncertainty, mart prices for younger stock have been
remarkably resilient. Cattle farmers continue to replace
stock as they finish and have adopted a reasonably
optimistic outlook, at least that is one interpretation of
ringside prices in recent weeks.
The BDGP with its Star system of merit was, as Terry
Carroll colourfully describes it, "an alien concept" for
many farmers at the outset: "It has been reasonably well
adopted at this stage. We still get some enquiries about
what is involved. In the BDGP One scheme, which is in
existence now since 2015, there is a requirement now
for genotype tagging relating to sixty percent of the
2015 reference quota. All female stock must be tagged,
along with some males if numbers are needed. For 2019
there is a requirement for a stock bull from the four or
five star category. That bull can be four or five Star on
either replacement or on terminal index and all of that
was explained at the Kildalton demonstration. It can be
within or across breeds so there are four chances to get
the bull right. The other side is for females, representing
twenty percent of the reference figure, at this stage, made
up of four or five Star females on the replacement index,
which are at least sixteen months of age. For the end of
October 2020 that requirement goes up to 50 per cent of
a farmer's reference quota being made up of females over
16 months which are at least four or five Star rating on
the replacement index. For some suckler farmers, those
requirements are a challenge, while others are already
at that stage. For those who need to get there, we o er
advice on AI or stock bull standards to get across the
Lack of profitability
While Terry Carroll accepts that there are major issues
outside the farm gate, including factory prices and
Brexit, over which farmers have no control, he insists
that there are changes which can be made on farms to
improve financial returns from suckler farming: "You have
to look at those things that are within farmers control.
The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on many farms
can be improved. Have you at least 0.9 calves per cow
per year? Does every cow calve within 365 days? Those
are key targets which can make or break the financial
viability of a suckler herd. The bull type is very important
to profitability. Doing all those things correctly may not
make you profitable without a decent beef price but
without them you have a much lower prospect of making
a profit."
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