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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Dairy: Our long-term target is to carry a stocking rate of 3.5 cows/ha

Henry Walsh

Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30

Richard Donovan, Chairman, Tipperary Co-op with host Patrick Ryan, Knockballynoe, Bansha, Co Tipperary at a Tipperary Coop/Teagasc farm walk on 'Feeding and managing the dairy/dry cow in post quota era'. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Richard Donovan, Chairman, Tipperary Co-op with host Patrick Ryan, Knockballynoe, Bansha, Co Tipperary at a Tipperary Coop/Teagasc farm walk on 'Feeding and managing the dairy/dry cow in post quota era'. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

We are on target to finish grazing the milking platform with the cows on December 4. Farm cover will be nearer to 600kg/dm/ha than our target of 550 due to very good growth in particular during October.

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The cows are grazing the last paddock at present with a cover of 2300 kg/dm/ha and we will dry them all abruptly over the next week.

They will be wintered on the pad where the new woodchip was levelled in the last few days. There was 75pc of the herd still milking during November on a diet of 9kg/dm of grass, 2kg of concentrate and 5kg/dm of high quality bale silage harvested as surplus off the MP during the grazing season.

By introducing the extra silage and concentrates we stretched the available grass till now and kept the cows at grass. During the very wet spell in November we put the cows on once a day milking.

The herd came in for milking at 6.15am and were stood off on concrete till 4pm with access to silage.

They were let back out to the paddock to a fresh allocation of grass for the night. Milk production dropped slightly with OAD milking and the herd is currently producing 11 litres at 5.7pc fat and 4.5pc protein or 1.15kg/ms per day with SCC around 200,000.

The annual figures for 2015 are 4800 litres of milk produced at 4.61pc fat and 3.85pc protein giving us 418kg/ms per cow. The MP is stocked at 3.2 cows/ha giving us 1337kg/ms/ha.

This was produced feeding 405kg of concentrate and 270 units of nitrogen per acre.

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We are hoping to improve on the output over the next few years by reducing the number of heifers in the herd when we stop expanding and we are confident the farm can carry a stocking rate of 3.5 cows /ha.

The target for 2016 is 430kg/ms/cow stocked at 3.35 and for 2017 430kg/ms/cow stocked at 3.5 ha which should give us 1500 kg/ms/ha.

We will increase concentrate feeding to 500 kg/cow but intend to feed the extra cows by growing and consuming more grazed grass.

The lime status is quite good with readings between 6.3 and 6.8 so we apply 2 tonne per acre at re seeding as we Mini Till. We are continuing to improve phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) with a target of having all soils at index 3.

This combined with the top performing grass on the Teagasc Pasture Production index should allow us to feed our cows fully.

The in-calf heifers are now on their winter block and John moves them every 36 or 48 hours. The pasture quality is very good with a cover of over 2500 ha and clean to the base. John estimates he has full grass for them until January 4 and no supplement will be required.

This grass costs us 12 cent/kg based on a land rental charge of €400/ha per annum of which I estimate €160 for the period from August 15 to January 6.

On top of this we have a fertiliser cost of €90 for 18-6-12 and €50 for K and machinery costs.

This is a total cost of €300 per hectare with a cover of 2500 kg/dm of grass or 12 cent a kg/dm. This is a dry farm but before you say it is not possible on my farm, consider this is a high rainfall area 48 inches (1300mm) and an overall stocking rate of 2.2 LU/HA.

The heifers will then come onto the Wintering Pad onto silage plus dry cow minerals having been at grass for 330 days. We will run them through the milking parlour for a kilo of meal and teat spray the udders.

Over the next month there will be some quiet time to enjoy the Christmas season, and we will then put a plan in place for 2016 and beyond.

Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway along with their son Enda and neighbour and outfarm owner John Moran

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