MANY LIVESTOCK businesses may find that adopting a hard cull policy in the year ahead will help alleviate rising costs.

According to SAC Consulting sheep and grassland specialist, Poppy Frater, removing unproductive stock to make better use of grazing ground could prove critical to businesses' bottom line.

“If farmers are concerned about the costs involved in making enough forage, then one way to alleviate the pressure is to use this year as a hard cull year for those animals that don’t suit your farm strategy,” suggested Ms Frater.

“Consider your genetic priorities now. For instance, if you want to prioritise low intervention maternal genetics, select against those that have difficult birthing.

"If temperament is an issue, use this year to cull hard on the main offenders. If you wish to tighten the calving or lambing spread – cull those that birthed later.”

Ms Frater added that, at the very least, farmers should cull stock diagnosed as barren, those that prolapse and any animals with severe feet or udder issues.

This advice comes as fertiliser costs skyrocket towards £1000 per tonne, and the calculation of how much to use, versus the business benefit of the forage created, is very much to the fore.

"With an estimated nitrogen response rate of 1:30, kg N:kg dry matter of grass, for every kg of nitrogen reduced, you will require 30kg dry matter of feed from another source," estimated Ms Frater. “At £1000/tonne, this conserved forage is costing £96 per tonne dry matter in nitrogen cost – it would still be challenging to find feed at this price.”

She pointed out that through rotational grazing, it might be possible to increase the overall silage area, and thus reduce fertiliser application without sacrificing the silage stock for next year.

“How you graze now, can be of benefit by shortening the winter," she added. "With rotational grazing, the utilisation of grass grown can be increased, without added inputs. Improving utilisation during the summer months may provide opportunity to save grass for winter.

“With rising feed costs, making the best quality silage for pregnant ewes and growing stock will reduce the ration cost further down the line. Don’t be tempted to delay cutting to go for bulk with less fertiliser, as this will be more costly later.”