We will use the Spring Rotation Planner and I find it is always a struggle to graze the required 30pc by March 1, so we will graze the lighter paddocks and feed 3kg of concentrate.
High-quality silage bales will be introduced in March to fill any feed deficits and ensure we stick to the Spring Rotation Plan. The priority is to make the first rotation last until April 4.
Over the last two weeks, we have analysed our 2016 Profit Monitor and attended a CellCheck workshop. We also attended a number of refresher walks on calf-rearing and spring grass.
The level of expertise at all of these events was very impressive, from our Teagasc advisors, who assist us in analysing our profit monitors, to the researchers that identify best practice for grass production or calf rearing, the vets and finally the host farmers.
Dairying in Ireland is now an industry with a clear blueprint in place to allow us to reach our Food Harvest 2020 targets. It is built on a low-cost grass and spring-calving milk production system.
Our discussion group met on January 31 to analyse our 2016 profit monitor. This meeting highlighted a lot of interesting points and set the base for our farming in 2017.
Our average milk price in 2016 was 31c, down from 34.5c in 2015. Milk output per cow was 5,240 litres at 4.73 fat and 3.73 protein. This gave us 445 kg/ms/cow and we were stocked at 3.5 cows/ha giving us 1,550kg/ms/ha.
This is a level of output I would not have thought possible five years ago when I had a goal to produce 1,350kg/ms/ha. For our farm I now believe 1,700 kg/ms/ha is a realistic target.
This is based on improving the genetics of the cows, achieving a better six-week in-calf rate, resulting in more days in milk with a more mature herd and stocked slightly higher at 3.6 cows/ha.
I believe we can grow and consume more grass by continuing to focus on the fertility status of the soil and in particular on lime over the next year, as well as the P and K.
We used the profit monitors completed nationally by January 31 to compare against. These were broken down into 'average' and 'top 10pc'.
The most striking thing about the top 10pc was that they had the same cost base per litre as the average, but they then produced more litres per cow at higher constituents, giving them 10pc more solids per cow.
They stocked the milking platform higher, at 3.43 cows per hectare versus 2.67, and this delivered a massive 38pc more milk solids per milking platform hectare.
The top 10pc delivered a very impressive 3.5c/l more profit but incredibly they delivered almost twice (88pc) the profit on every milking platform hectare.
Last year has reinforced to me how important it is that we have a sustainable farming system in place that is capable of withstanding the low milk price years.
It is only by completing and comparing the profit monitor that we can measure our performance to see how we are performing against our peers.
Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway, along with their son, Enda, and neighbour and out-farm owner John Moran
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