How much does it actually cost to keep a suckler cow?

The cost of keeping a spring-calving suckler cow varies considerably across the country, according to Teagasc’s Pearse Kelly.

But based on results from e-profit Monitor data, Kelly said the cost, including both fixed and variable costs, of keeping a spring-calving suckler cow to the point of weanling is in the region €715/head.

“The €715 is an average, in some parts of the country you could add €100-200/cow and in other parts of the country you could take off €150,” he said recently.

To bring the subsequent progeny to finish, the Teagasc Head of Drystock said it costs €545 to produce a 377kg steer carcass at 24 months of age (weanling bull to finish).

Furthermore, he added the cost of bringing a heifer weanling to slaughter at 24 months of age (296kg carcass) stands at €438 based on Teagasc budgets.

This brings the total cost of calving a suckler cow and finishing the progeny to €1,465 for the steer finishing system and €1,153 for heifer system.

For farmers to make a net margin of €200/cow, assuming 50% of the cows in herd have bull and 50% have heifer calves, a steer price of 445c/kg is needed while a heifer price of 440c/kg is required to hit this target, he said.

Suckler cows need to be 100% efficient

Kelly also stressed that the suckler cow needs to be 100% efficient.

At the end of the day, if the cow is not efficient she is definitely going to be leaving a loss.

“She needs to produce a live calf every year and she needs to have a short winter feeding period.

“That €715 rises dramatically if you have a seven month winter verses a farm that has a four or five month winter,” he said.

The Teagasc Head of Drystock added that spring-calving suckler cows need to be able to mobilise far over the winter months, while also producing a carcass that meets market requirements and is valuable enough to cover the costs and leave a profit.