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Sunday 4 December 2016

Dairy: Get organised now for a stress-free Christmas on the farm

Gerard Sherlock

Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30

It's a good habit when all cattle come indoors that all electric fencers are locked away and water is turned off especially on outfarms
It's a good habit when all cattle come indoors that all electric fencers are locked away and water is turned off especially on outfarms

For the next two weeks or so people will be getting organised for Christmas like it was the end of time. We farmers must get organised too so that Christmas is stress free on the farm.

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As much time as possible should be spent with family and friends over the Christmas. Start today by checking stocks of diesel, meal, cubicle lime, mastitis tubes and so on.

A lot of rain has fallen over the past three weeks with many fields flooded. The cows were housed full-time on November 11, leaving a closing average farm cover of 700kg/DM/ha.

Some of the paddocks have covers of up to 1200 kg/DM/ha with good quality grass. Hopefully they will remain in the same condition for next February. Weanlings were all housed last week. I was happy enough with their grazing on the silage ground.

You have to walk the ground that weanlings are on daily as poaching can happen easily especially after a heavy night's rain.

It's a good habit when all cattle come indoors that all electric fencers are locked away and water is turned off especially on outfarms. We all still have memories of the frost from 2010 and 2011.

Cows are presently producing 12.5l at 4.28pc butter fat, 3.37pc protein giving 1.2kg milk solids per cow a day. We're recording a TBC of 5000, SCC at 166 and Thermoduric at 100. The last few weeks has seen 25 cows dried off.

I am using Cepravin dry cow tubes with Boviseal. It's my first time to use teat sealers. I had some mastitis cases after calving this year so I am hoping the teat sealer will reduce this.

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Any cows with SCC readings greater the 200 in a milk recording result were treated with a Tetra-Delta lactating tube three days prior to drying off.

The cows were scanned and I have an empty rate of 18pc. The cows that are not in calf are mainly second and third lactation cows.

Fertility or the lack of it is still a number one issue on this farm and while I try to do all the steps to improve it, it is slow.

I also lost a cow two weeks ago because she did the 'splits' on the slats. I tried lifting her for a couple of days but it was of no avail.

Over the last couple of weeks machinery such as the disc mower and fertiliser sower were washed, greased and oiled by Peter my student.

I also had to get the slurry tanker repaired which involved a set of vanes and fittings. I got a new drive-shaft with a guard fitted. I'm still not happy with the guard as it is very tight fitting on the tanker.

Scrapers

It's hard matching up old machinery with modern guards. The scrapers in the slatted house have been giving a fair bit of trouble recently.

Some of the oil pipes and rams and seals needed replacement. Scrapers are great when they are working but a torture when not.

I attended a meeting of host farmers in Ballyhaise college last week. It was my first such meeting and I heard a list of the issues that both students and host farmers raised after their experiences. Thankfully I hadn't encountered many of them.

There are presently 1,100 students on the 'roll' in Ballyhaise on various agricultural courses. Out of the 32 weeks spent in college, some 12 weeks are on placement.

The skills shown during placement are critical because with the big numbers in colleges students don't get many opportunities. Another student finished his placement with me last week. I did my best to give him a taste of everything that takes place on a dairy family farm.

Last Monday I attended a producer meeting of my new co-op - LacPatrick. One of the topics discussed was the new payment structure.

Many of us suppliers now realise that we have to produce higher solids milk for the range of products LacPatrick is manufacturing.

The company's management team is also predicting an upturn in dairy prices in the New Year.

The big talking point everywhere is the IFA.

We as ordinary farmers trusted the leadership of IFA and this has been betrayed.

Unfortunately there has always been a culture of cover-up in this country - just look at the Church, the political system and nearly all the professions.

We often complain that TDs forget about us when they get elected and we only see them again when they are canvassing.

Could the same be said about IFA? I haven't cancelled my membership and I look forward to seeing how IFA regains my trust.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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