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Saturday 23 September 2017

Gerard Sherlock: Drainage work took longer than planned

Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

One thing is for certain - when the good weather comes there are so many jobs to be done. You often find yourself working an extra hour or two after milking just to catch up.

Two weeks ago I hired in a contractor with an excavator to do some drainage work. What I thought would have lasted two or three days finished up a week's work.

Some of my land is low-lying and had simply become too wet to work in. Grass growth was poor and it was being poached too often.

This ground would have been drained around 18 years ago using the 50mm land drain pipes with stone underneath the pipe and on top of it. When we broke in to some of these drains they were blocked and the pipes filled with silt. They were definitely doing no drainage.

In some places we broke into the stone-built drains which were done 50 years ago or more. You could see some water still running in these. I dug a number of new drains and filled them with a mix of 75mm and 50mm clean stone to ground level. I used no pipes this time. In total, I used about 150 tonne of stone.

In one of the cow paddocks this is the fourth time for this particular area to be drained, according to my father. It would be peaty-type soil, with little or no fall on it.

While we had the excavator a few other jobs were done. I opened up a new gap into a paddock and will run a narrow walk along the ditch to allow the cows access to another paddock.

This paddock previously could only be accessed by crossing a field. This would turn out messy when conditions were wet. These little jobs have been put on hold for the past couple of years due to the weather. It's nice to get them out of the way and completed now.

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For the last two weeks grass has been tight for the cows. Two paddocks were taken out for bales in mid-June and a few paddocks have been topped. I increased the meal feeding to 6kg to slow down the rotation.

Grass growth is good. I am trying to hold off using any after-grass as I will need it all for next winter.

I will have to watch this closely over the next week or so. Pasture sward or CAN is being spread weekly at around 35units/ac.

At the moment, the cows are producing 26.7l at 3.56pc butter fat (BF), 3.2pc protein. This is 1.86kg of milk solids per cow per day. The SCC is 213,000 and TBC is 7,000. Farm cover is at 518kg at a stocking rate of 3.36LU/ha.

The bull has been in with the cows now for three weeks. I am scanning the cows again this week. I know of two cows that got CIDRs and showed no heat so these need checking.

The last group of eight heifers have been served over the past fortnight. This group was the youngest and lightest but they seem alright now.

Calves were dosed for the first time and moved to new grass last week. The dose was a 'down the throat' treatment.

Last month I got 46t of lime spread over 33ac of silage ground. The timing of the rain came right as well.

Our last discussion group meeting was a cellcheck workshop. It was very worthwhile and very practically presented.

There was nothing new in the information but it's good to be refreshed.

Keeping cell counts below 200,000 on a continuous monthly basis is a challenge.

To achieve this our group came up with some recommendations:

1.Teat spraying must be done properly. We must use 15ml/cow. We had to work out how much teat spray it took for a week. I should be using 15.5l/week.

Coincidentally, last week I got the automatic teat sprayer installed in the parlour as part of my parlour upgrade work. Like anything new it takes a while to adjust. For the first few days teats were being drowned.

2.We were advised to wear gloves while milking which I don't. I haven't decided yet to change.

3.Read and study all the milk recording reports. These give crucial information. By removing one or two of the high SCC cows it could reduce overall SCC by 50pc.

I got the bill recently for last month's DIY milk recording and it worked out at €2.05/cow. This has to be good value.

The biggest shock to group members was the cost of SCC. On my farm with 74 cows and taking my 2012 average SCC in the 100,000 to 200,000 bracket, my estimated reduction in net farm profit due to mastitis was €6,161.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co. Monaghan. Email: gsherlock@eircom.net

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