As part of this week’s Suckler Focus, That’s Farming speaks to Cormac Duffy about switching from drystock to sucklers and beef prices.
Cormac Duffy farms on a part-time basis and feels changing from drystock to sucklers was the best move for his enterprise.
He is of the view that financial returns were not matching the levels of labour and time required for taking stores through to beef.
“The price of beef was going down. The cattle bought and, the price of meal were not coming back in the cheque from the factory, that was one part of it.” he told That’s Farming.
“Another factor was that it was hard to source suitable stock; paying the same amount for an animal that was not as good, did not grade or gain the weight as well. You are caught between a rock and a hard place there.”
“It was easier to get some nice heifers in and try and breed a weanling that would get what we want. What we are looking at is to aim for the €1,000 bull weanling. There is no reason anyone cannot do that, with the right bull and the right cow.”
Cormac outlined there were no major changes involved in switching from drystock to sucklers, except for cows calving and establishing a breeding programme.
The Balla, Co. Mayo native believes having a productive cow with easy calving traits, and an ability to produce quality progeny are the key elements to running a successful suckler farm.
“You still have to make your silage put out your fertiliser, do you TB testing and all that. There is a little bit more work with cows, calving registering and tagging, and so on. I am enjoying it. It is nice seeing your cows calf, the calves hopping around; it is rewarding.”
Cormac’s ideals cow-type carries a mix of Limousin, Simmental and Salers blood with strong maternal traits, high fertility and an ability to produce a golden-coloured calf for weanling purchasers.
He runs a spring-calving herd, and his cows are set to calf in three weeks.
Cormac AIs all heifers to easy-calving Salers sires, while a Limousin or Charolais stock bull serves cows.
He culls cows that are empty or if they have temperament issues, but overall, he is satisfied with the herd, which is achieving its one calf per cow per year target.
“We calf them this time of year because they are closer to turn out, which leaves less potential for illness/disease. So far, we have bought replacement heifers; our ones will not be coming in for another couple of years. We sell progeny as weanlings in Balla Mart.”
Cormac would like to improve herd quality continually and has a desire to breed his own replacements.
“The Irish farmer needs a strong political supporter that they do not have. The factories are running riot over the Irish beef. It does not just impact the finishers. It all trickles down to the suckler market, whether you have 5 cows, 50 cows or 100 cows.”
“More grants are not the answer: we need a beef price that is sustainable for the farmer. Four years ago, beef factories would pay €4.50-4.60 kg in February; now they cannot even get €3.70.”
“Farmers now are on their own. There is not enough reliable help to guarantee that we will have it when we need it. So, you have to set up your facilities as if it is only you there.”
“That is what I am trying to do myself. You will get help sometimes, and some people are great for helping when you ring them, but you do not always know when they are available to you.” Cormac concluded.