Managing grass quality is the big challenge in a time of rapid growth
Published 08/06/2016 | 02:30
It's exactly six months to the day since I wrote my last farming piece.
As you can imagine, over those six months a lot has happened. On Friday, March 18 my father passed away at the age of 84. For the previous 14 weeks he was a patient in the Mater Hospital following heart surgery. Things didn't quite work out after the operation.
The last six months have been a great learning experience for me and my family.
Over that time jobs had to be put on hold, milking times had to be flexible, other people helped at the farmwork and did it just as well as I would. The support of the community was tremendous in time of need.
The beautiful weather of the past few weeks did lift the minds and spirits of everyone. The work of farming becomes pleasant again rather than a chore.
Silage making is in full swing with my own silage cut last Tuesday. Given the late spring, I was wondering would there be any May silage at all. None of the silage ground was grazed this year. It got 3000 gallons of slurry on March 22 followed with 70 units of N on April 19. This was a later than normal fertiliser sowing for me because of weather conditions at the time. All the nitrogen was gone out of the grass by May 25 as it was tested. Wilting conditions were very good which should give me some quality silage next winter.
Managing grass quality is a huge challenge at the minute. Paddocks are growing rapidly everyday. The first three weeks of May saw great grass quality and fairly good grazing conditions.
But two weeks ago I took out one paddock for round baling and it was no sooner baled til there was another one for taking out. It went into the silage pit last week.
The grass wedge last week was telling me on a stocking rate of 4.7 LU/ha I had a cover/LU of 160. I must try to maintain this as I would expect a slowing up of grass growth now.
I am spreading 30 units of CAN+S after every grazing. This is my first time to use CAN+S. Sulphur seems to be an important nutrient now for growing grass. I will probably spread each paddock twice with sulphur. No topping has been done yet. Weather has also been ideal for spraying docks and weeds.
So any chance I get I am spraying with Doxstar and High Load Mircam. I completed the necessary spraying course in March so all is above board.
Presently the 74 cows are producing 27 litres at 3.66pc fat, 3.30pc protein giving 1.91kg MS/cow/day, with TBC of 5000.
I have a higher percentage of first calvers in the herd this year and so I would see my yield down a bit. I had a good spring as regards calvings. The calving jack wasn't used at all and no scour problems with calves.
Recently I had one calf with bad pneumonia but this cleared up with treatment. As a precaution I injected all calves with Alamycin LA as a few coughs could be heard.
One batch of calves are on grass from the middle of May. I had four sets of twins this year. So far this year I lost five calves. Two with defects and a couple not watched well enough.
No cows were lost this spring although one or two came close with a displaced stomach and a milk fever case. A couple of cows had to be treated for heart infections and I am hoping they have sorted themselves out.
The breeding season is well underway now and AI began on April 8. The team of bulls I am using this year are YBG, FR2050, FR2275, YRY, FR2314, LWR. They have a combined EBI of 332 and 39kgs of fat and protein. A batch of 28 heifers were served with AI before they went to grass and they are now divided into two batches with a bull. Cows are showing strong heats. I had a very active teaser bull complete with chinball with the cows.
I let in a Friesian bull with the cows on May 27 and he will be changed to the Hereford bull on June 17.
There are two cows on a CIDR programme and I will scan the cows next week. I have been washing out the cows that had twins and a few others that I saw discharging.
In the last few months I had my second Bord Bia inspection which went off very well. After a full three hours I was happy with my final score and the few small recommendations made will be taken on board.
I had another student for 12 weeks from Ballyhaise. He was a keen dairy student who was a big help during a difficult spring.
In early April RTE's 'Big Week on the Farm' came and filmed. It was a great breath of fresh air for us to host the programme. The same month, I also hosted our discussion group.
One area we looked at was the future and how to further develop the farm. Going forward, milk price will be critical in decision making.
Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan