independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Time to stop worrying about summer

For too many months I have started writing about the rain falling and hoping the next month will be better. Unfortunately, August was no better. Now as the children head back to school and more lights are needed in the morning, the real autumn has begun.

Since the cattle went outdoors in spring, I seem to have spent a lot of time moving them from field to field. Whether it was the maiden heifers or weanlings, they were never content after a few days. The after-grass following the second cut has helped this. Weanlings are being dosed every three weeks. A heifer grower nut is being fed to the weanlings at 2kg each.

Cows went back indoors at night on August 17. This was due to grass getting scarce and cows starting to poach paddocks. I am trying to build up grass for autumn, which won't be easy. No nitrogen has gone out for the past three weeks.

I hope to spread 27 units/acre this week and this will probably be the last for this year. Present milk yield is 20l/cow. Butterfats vary from day to day with a range from 3.36--3.71pc. Proteins are at 3.20pc, resulting in 1.39kg of milk-solids per cow per day. SCC is at 112 and TBC is about 20,000. This may be due to cows being dirtier than normal.

TECHNIQUE

The bulls were taken out from the cows and heifers on August 21. The day after they came out, I spotted a couple of cows on heat. I hope that will be it. The end of September scan will tell the tale. I closed the bulls indoors. At one of our recent discussion group meetings, Padraig O'Connor from Teagasc gave us a very worthwhile demonstration on correct milking procedures and technique.

With cow herds and parlours getting bigger, he stressed the importance of an efficient milking routine. In general we are all good milkers, but changing some techniques may leave it easier. Changing hands when we hold the milking cluster as we move from side to side can reduce the risk of repetitive-strain injury. This occurs when the same pressure is applied to the same bones day in day out.

Padraig also stressed the fact that milking cows is not about speed. We were never asked how long it takes us to milk our cows. It is more important to milk them properly. Another tip was to milk cows in groups of four or five. This is to reduce the walks up and down parlour pits, especially when you are teat-dipping. I have been guilty of opening the front gate, starting dipping and when you are at the last couple of cows you are dipping the sides of their legs. Around 15ml of teat dip should be used per cow per milking.

It was a worthwhile discussion because there is no formal training on how to milk cows correctly. At our last co-op board meeting, we heard that the markets have finally bottomed out and the only way is up. The milk price will be up to co-ops themselves and how much they have forward-sold their products. The risk of an over-quota situation this year seems to be diminishing.

One concern for all dairy farmers will be the spiralling cost of the three Fs -- feed, fertiliser and fuel. Rumour has it that dairy rations are heading for €400/t, CAN could reach €400/t and diesel is now €1 per litre.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan E-mail: gsherlock@eircom.net

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