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Farming to finish the year on a high?

Farming to finish the year on a high?

The spring of 2013 will long be remembered as the worst for many years with little grass growth, limited fodder supplies  and high feed costs. Nature was not on the farmers side.

Since then we have had a great grass year with good cattle performance, quality fodder made and fantastic Autumn weather. Its a great time too for arable farmers with ideal conditions for sowing winter crops.  Nature is back on side!


The improved weather has helped reduce feed costs and most sectors have seen an improved demand and price . Milk in particular has improved significantly with nearly all farmers getting above 32ppl. It has correct cash flow on most dairy farms after a difficult winter and spring last year.

Beef too is returning strong prices and suckler farmers are in turn getting good prices for weanlings. I was at last weeks sale in Enniskillen which had nearly 500 calves for sale. The better weather was reflected in good calf weights and prices ranged from £520 to £1100 for steers and bulls and from £450 to £895 for heifers.

What price beef ?

Suckler farmers will rightly argue that they need all they get from the market given their costs of production. I sold a few cattle earlier in the Autumn and got a good cheque from the mart. The ‘feel good’ factor’ lasted until  I started counting the costs of producing the calf . My profit averaged a little over £80 per calf. Enough? No, I would like more but how much more can the market afford to pay?

I could say beef should be £4.50 a kilo but who would pay for it? Prices can and should rise further but only provided all meats rise in price. If beef becomes too expensive relative to pork, poultry or fish then it becomes a luxury product and demand falls.

How many of us know what it costs to produce a weanling calf? What is the breakeven price? Should I continue producing weanlings, may be should sell as stores?  There is only one way to find out. Do the sums.


This is a free , independant service and available to all farmers across NI and well worth considering. It assesses the physical and financial performance of a farm business and compares them to similiar type farms. The detail can then be used by the local CAFRE advisers who can offer advice on areas that could be improved and reinforce areas which are going well. We might not like some of the answers but at least we know where we are starting from.

Even with nature on our side and with good prices we can all learn on how we can hold on to more of the mart cheque. If you want to find out more contact the team on

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