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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Breeding choices now will impact on herd in 2015

Gerard Sherlock

Published 19/04/2011 | 14:06

As I look around for my jumper I remember what my mother used to say: "Cast not a clout till May is out." After seeing temperatures hit more than 20 C last weekend it's hard to believe it can drop to less than half that a few days later. Such is the Irish weather.

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Since the cows went out by day on March 2 they have only had to stay in for five days. My first rotation ended on April 18 -- two weeks later than planned. As yet, this is having no negative effect as grass covers are low to medium, while grass growth is currently around 40kg/ha/day. Cows are not out by night yet but this should change shortly.

The herd is producing 26l at 3.92pc butterfat, 3.20pc protein on 6kg of and 18pc dairy nut. This is a big improvement on last year as I was below 3pc for protein. It has to be because of the early grass in the diet and cows are in better condition after good quality silage over the winter. Making quality silage is so important as we mustn't forget it is the main food for four to five months. Sometimes we look too much at alternative feeds and lose sight of the necessity of making quality silage.

Tail painting began in the middle of March with AI started from April 1.

A big push is on this year in the northern region to breed from AI bulls with high fertility and high solids. A farm walk was held on a Monaghan farm on April 6 highlighting the importance of breed decisions made this year.

The core message is that female calves born next spring will result in the heifers calving down in 2015 when milk quotas are gone. The team of bulls I am using are LLK, AXN, MJI, GJM, IRP, VGE, LTL. These have a fertility average of €115.

This year I weighed my maiden heifers thanks to Teagasc. In the group of 17, eight were above the target of 330kg. The other nine varied from 237-308kg. This was an interesting exercise. It showed me that the nine heifers gained 0.76kg/day while the lighter ones gained 0.65kg/day. The group of nine was born between 01/01/10 and 05/02/10. The lighter group was born between 11/02/10 and 30/03/10. The lessons for me were that the early born calf reached the target and the later born calf needed extra feeding. I will hold off to AI the lighter group in six weeks' time.

There are 10 cows yet to calve, or 14pc of the herd. They are outdoors on an outfarm.

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Each calving is so different. Recently, I put a cow in to calve. During the night she began to lose some blood. When I examined her I could feel three feet in an unusual position. My gut feeling was there was something wrong so I rang the vet. This was the first call of the year to a calving.

His opinion was that the calf was deformed, dead and didn't want to come out. So he operated and took it out. The calf came out like a ball shape. I had never seen the like of it before. He said I was lucky enough as sometimes it takes a massive incision. The cow is recovering well. It was surely a case of you learn something new every day.

After receiving my March milk statement I began to calculate my available quota for next year. Following no quota problems for a number of years we are being warned already of a difficult year ahead.

For the year just ended, I supplied 405,221l including butterfat adjustment. This was 17,286l over my quota. When I add on 10,260l that I purchased and the 0.75pc extra allocation my quota will be 401,181l. This is still 4,040l over my quota.

In this third week of April I am running almost 200l/day over last year. In the dairy I always keep last year's calendar behind this year's to quickly compare. I have made the decision to sell off some milk stock as it may be easier to do it now than next spring.

We often hear about a paper trail. Over the past few weeks I know all about it. March and April must be the reporting months. First there was the dairy cow report from ICBF with all the EBIs, next came a milk performance management report. The dairy health cert for 2011 also arrived.

I had a classification visit and following it there was another report in the post. The annual milk recording results came and not forgetting the single farm payment form and the Census form. I accept all the reports are important and provide terrific information but how much do we take out of them? Do we take a quick glance at them the day they arrive and is that it? Is there a need for better co-ordination of these reports?

This month I host our discussion group, which is looking at calf rearing. There are 15 members in our group, which started in 1998, with seven of the founders still in it. I began to erect a collecting yard for the cows going into the parlour on March 1. It is 46ft by 23ft and should hold 69 cows. It has a slatted tank and is roofed. Next month I will share the costings and how it is working.

For now, I am looking forward to loads of Easter eggs and spending time with the family over the holidays.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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