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Published 22/03/2011 | 10:06
St Patrick's Day has come and gone and, according to my spring rotation planner, I should have almost two thirds of the grazing paddocks cleaned off. Today it is about half the paddocks. Why have I slipped? The cows went out two weeks later than I had planned, on March 1, instead of February 14, due to covers that were on average as low as 400kg DM/ha
Moreover, the last two weeks of February were very wet. A tough combination for letting cows out. Cows grazed happily for 12 days until four inches of snow fell. Frost has also returned, leaving grass growth poor. Going on previous experience, I expect a burst of growth soon. My 'magic day' is supposed to be April 4. I am determined to meet this target and to graze as much of the ground as possible this month to set me up for the second rotation.
Urea was spread at a rate of a half bag per acre on most of the milking platform on March 2. I am watching weather conditions carefully this spring for soil temperatures and rain so that I get the most out of my fertiliser as it cost me so much.
Slurry was spread on all silage ground on March 4. It was one of those decisions I had to make quickly. I employ a contractor as my silage ground is all on out-farms. I knew the weather was going to break and I also knew that my ground conditions were passable and no more.
When a large tractor and a 2,600ga slurry tanker start sinking they can make a right track. The silage ground was bare and well cleaned out so it got around 3,000ga/ac. Storage was OK but when I couldn't hear the dung falling into the tank I knew it was getting full and it was time to act fast.
Calving has been steady enough over the past few weeks although, with just half of the cows calved, maybe not as compact as I would like. Friesian bulls are leaving the farm at two to three weeks of age through the export route.
This year, we've also seen more beef farmers calling to the yard to buy small batches than ever before. I suppose they are just switching to the dairy bull calf as a cheaper option with the way prices have gone in the marts. We started off at €150/hd but this has dropped back to closer to €100/calf now. This suits me down to the ground since I dread having a backlog of bull calves hanging around the place, which are only extra work in my book.