Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 18 October 2017

It's good to see grass growing well

William Cassidy, left, Maganey, Co Kildare, accepts his award from Leinster Marts' manager Pat Breen for the best pen of small stores
William Cassidy, left, Maganey, Co Kildare, accepts his award from Leinster Marts' manager Pat Breen for the best pen of small stores

John Heney

'Is the glass half full or half empty?" It's the perennial question. But substitute 'silage pit' for glass and you have the question that I -- and I presume many others -- were asking themselves at the end of January.

A good month has passed since then and I am becoming increasingly confident that things will work out. If everything goes well, I am hoping to get some of my older cattle out on grass at a low stocking rate around the middle of this month and I will then slowly increase my stocking rate as we get into next month.

I have done this for the past few years on the advice of a cattle farmer friend and, except for last year's late spring, it has worked out very well. Getting an early start on grass is important when it comes to getting cattle finished under 30 months.

An issue, which always comes to the fore at this time of the year, is slurry. I was amazed, presumably as a result of the dry winter, just how low the levels of slurry in my tanks were this year. So much so, I decided that it would be safer to add more than a foot of water to each tank. It was as well that I did, because even with this extra water they still proved difficult to agitate. I was, however, very fortunate to get some mild, moist weather conditions while the slurry was being spread and this should hopefully ensure a more efficient uptake of its nutrient content.

Speaking of weather, it is nice to see signs of growth returning after the harsh winter. I have much more faith in the future of the green shoots that are appearing in my fields at the moment than the 'green shoots' that we hear political and economic gurus speak about.

The recent rain has also raised the water level of the pond that I had cleaned out last summer. I am hopeful that its much-increased capacity will provide me with a plan B should we get another dry summer. I have fenced it off and I will be allowing only limited stock access to it, in order to try and maintain water quality. I am also quite curious to see how well the pond will retain its water volume this summer, because with the increasing cost of water and the fact that the pond is positioned right at the highest part of my farm, I feel that there must be some way I could make better use of it to water the cattle.

Another thing that struck me recently was how much I, and many others, take for granted the unique service which small, local marts provide for us. While these marts may lack the glitz and facilities of some of the modern 'super' marts, they more than make it up in personal service and courtesy. Put simply, they do what they are supposed to do -- that is to sell cattle quickly and efficiently.

Also in this era of rapidly rising energy costs, I believe that these local marts should receive far more encouragement and support. Their presence cuts down hugely on the use of expensive diesel by reducing the distance cattle have to travel. This provides us with substantial savings on the costs of animal transport and on time spent travelling for both buyers and sellers alike.

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I also find it most unfortunate that the highly important social amenity, which these local marts provide, goes virtually ignored.

From a purely practical point of view, its great to be able to drop into the local mart for an hour or two, perhaps meet your friends, discuss prices and if you happen to buy just one or two cattle, there is no problem getting them home. I guess when it comes to marts, as far as I am concerned, small is beautiful.

John Heney is a beef farmer from Kilfeakle, Co Tipperary

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