Saturday 1 October 2016

The silage is in but the grazing fields are bare

John Heney

Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30

The perfect cut of silage
The perfect cut of silage

Last week was a successful one; I got my silage in and covered after allowing it to wilt for 36 hours. My biggest worry in situations such as this is that it might dry out too much which can cause the top and the sides of the pit to become musty. Musty silage has probably cost me several losses over the years.

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My silage fields were light enough except for two sections that got slurry last October. They could probably have benefited from waiting for another week or so but I decided not to delay cutting as there is no guaranteeing the weather and cutting early also ensures better feeding quality and of course earlier after-grass.

I find the introduction of after-grass into my rotational grazing system from late June on to be a very important part of my finishing system, particularly in a dry summer.

While a good supply of rain is very important for growth on my farm, the cold weather has certainly held back growth until now and my grazing fields are quite bare at this stage.

This has slowed down thrive, but I am encouraged by the progress made by the last lot of cattle out of the shed. These are the youngest and they appear to be thriving better than in previous years.

I have always been concerned that these younger cattle, as they never appear to do as well as the older cattle.

While I thought that copper deficiency was a problem, I'm not totally convinced.

This year, as well as injecting them with copper, I have put out some extra mineral licks and reduced their stocking rate slightly to see what effect this will have.

A recent welcome development is the information contained on the factory kill-sheet in relation to fluke infestation. Last year I dosed all my store cattle with a fluke and worm drench just after buying-in.

However I was a bit disappointed with the results, so this year I am using a different dose and I delayed dosing until after the cattle went out to grass - the outcome will be interesting.

Incomes

I was away for a few days recently and I got to thinking about how and why cattle farmers end up with such miserable incomes

I have often wondered why there is currently so much emphasis on increasing output rather than focusing on increasing incomes.

Increasing output is great but it obviously requires an increase in inputs while giving absolutely no guarantee of an increase in income.

If there is one thing we have learned over the last few years, it is that we have little or no control over the price we receive for our beef.

However there is one thing that every farmer has absolute power over and that is the amount we spend on inputs. I firmly believe we should be using this power to radically slash inputs, even if this means some reduction in output.

I farm to make a living and I believe that it is far better to have 10 cattle leaving you a clear net profit of €100 each, rather than feeding a hundred cattle that make you €10 a head.

If we look at the recently published Teagasc income figures they confirm once again that many farmers are not making a living from their stock and are dipping into their single farm payment to survive.

Remember, that every time you do that you are effectively subsidising the beef barons.

And we all know that they don't need the money.

John Heney farms at Kilfeakle, Co Tipperary.

jheney@ independent.ie

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