With Christmas and New Year well out of the way, it's
time to get focused again on the job of dairy farming.
And there is no better way of focusing the brain than looking at my profit monitor results for 2012.
The discussion group meets tomorrow to dissect the results. 2012 was a very challenging year, as we all know, and the profits/losses will reflect this. I hope that 2013 will be much better from many standpoints.
The Teagasc Profit Monitor is an important tool for dairy farmers. I can compare my figures from year to year, compare them to other dairy farmers and use the results to set targets for 2013.
If these targets aren't set in January, February will come and farmwork will take over. The first-cut silage is being fed to all animals at the moment. Tests on the silage found 20pc dry matter, 4.5 pH, 12.2 Protein, 10.9 ME, 72 DMD. Looking at these results they don't seem too bad, but it just lacks power.
This seems to be an issue everywhere, even with good silage results – animals are not performing.
My milk proteins have dropped since I started to feed it. They have dipped below 3.0pc, which is a big challenge to get them lifted again. I am trying to stay on a high UFL 18pc dairy nut.
I am feeding a five-way mix of barley, soya, maize meal, sugar beet pulp and rapeseed through the feeder to lift the energy levels. One kg of straw is also being fed.
There are 18 fresh calved cows and 22 stale cows being milked. Milk yields are at 20 litres per cow. Some heifers are calving down. They have all calved on their own so far.
I had one cow die two weeks ago. She must have got a knock on her side and was bleeding internally. It looked as if it had stopped, but then she went down and wouldn't get up.
She then developed E.coli mastitis which finished her off. I never saw it before and hopefully I'll never see it again.
Friesian bull calves are being sold for between €80 and €100 for export. In some cases this is down €100/hd from this time last year. I can't see this price rising much as more calves will be coming out from now on.
Last week all the weanling heifers got their first lepto vaccine shot. This will be repeated in four weeks' time. All other cows and in-calf heifers will also get their annual shot.
I see some cows standing on their toes and on the edge at the back of cubicles. This is a sure sign of mortellara. A foot bath will be introduced for three days. That usually cures it.
At the last co-op meeting, a discussion was held on the proposed National Quality Assurance Scheme for dairy farmers. Even though I use the word proposed, it more than likely will be introduced soon enough.
We all agreed that, whatever format it takes, common sense must prevail.
An industry cannot be created for audits and rule enforcements, because it will be me and dairy farmers who will be paying for it. Some would argue that when milk quality is being achieved, that should be enough, because at the end of the day milk is milk.
One question being asked on the day was whether a premium would be paid to those farmers who achieve quality assurance accreditation – I don't think so.
My additional two units in the parlour are not up and running yet, but will be soon. I sent in the grant claim paperwork for the new milk tank on December 31 and am expecting an inspection visit.
The buyers' group to which I belong held its AGM recently. New officers were elected as all officers had completed their two years.
It's a great system to have in place – an officer does two years and that's it. You have a better appetite from people to take on jobs when they know the length of term they have to do. So many committees and organisations could learn from this.
Last weekend there was a deadline for part of the CAO application process. I got an email recently from a young man who is doing his leaving cert. He wanted my opinion as to what he should do – go to college or start up dairying. It's a difficult one to answer nowadays.
How much college does one need to get a job, or how much cash does one need to start up dairying?
There is a great hunger among young people to go into agriculture at the minute.
Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co. Monaghan. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org