The vital criterion in selecting a beef system is to ensure that feed requirements match supplies produced on the farm, with a minimum of conflict with other enterprises. Grass must form the basis of any system with emphasis given to grazing. In quantifying feed supplies, the ability of the suckler cow to store summer grazing, as body fat, must also be included.
Traditionally, enterprises have been evaluated on a Gross Margin basis. On combined beef/sheep units, such comparison must be carefully interpreted if misleading conclusions are to be avoided. Adequate supplies of autumn grazing arc key components for both enterprises. Failure to meet these, results in reduced individual performance or increased winter feed requirements. The grassland requirements of both enterprises must therefore be complementary.
May calving and selling calves store in the spring, prior to lambing, achieves these objectives. An important component of such a breeding enterprise is the tax-free, capital accumulation via the herd basis and beneficial effects on the cash flow. Where capital for investing into breeding stock is unavailable, the purchase of week-old calves in January, for sale at 330 kg the following spring or retained for grass finishing, can also integrate successfully with the ewe flock, minimizing dependence on conserved winter feed and accommodation.