Farming

Thursday 31 July 2014

Welcome rain brings out a welcome bumper silage crop

Gerard Sherlock

Published 10/06/2014|02:30

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The busy summer months when the silage campaign, and later the grain harvest get underway, are the most dangerous in terms of loss of life on farm
The busy summer months when the silage campaign, and later the grain harvest get underway, are the most dangerous in terms of loss of life on farm

A wet and windy May is supposed to fill the barns with corn and hay. This was certainly the case this May as everybody is reporting massive silage crops.

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First cut silage was completed on my farm on May 31, or more precisely, in the early hours of June 1.

The forecast had farmers under a lot of pressure and silage contractors as dry days were scarce. It seems in an unsettled weather period it is very hard to be accurate, so often we have to take a chance.

I took three grass samples before cutting and they were all different. One had high sugars and no nitrogen, another had medium sugars and some nitrogen, while the last had lowish sugars and nitrogen. I just had to cut it as the butt was getting yellow and a couple of dry days were coming. Luckily it did get sunshine for wilting for about six hours.

Extra precautions were needed around the pit as I had to really secure the stop barriers as the grass was heavier and wetter. I also put lengths of 50mm land drain on the pit floor to speed up the effluent getting out to the channel.

Settled

Thankfully the pit has settled well but I do check it daily for the couple of weeks to tighten down the weights along the walls. Slurry went out on the silage ground last Monday and has been well washed in since. Nitrogen will be spread this week to get ready for a second cut.

I reseeded one of the cow paddocks, which is almost 3ac. The grass seed mix included 3.5kg Abergain, 3kg Aberchoice, 2.5kg Drumbo and 2.75kg Clanrye. This was sown on May 30. The field was burned off with roundup, and we drained the wet places. Then it was all ploughed, got lime at 2.5t/ac, power-harrowed, and a double run of grass-harrow before sowing.

It got one final run of the grass-harrow, then 3.5 bags/ac of 13-2.6-19 and two bags of Super P fertiliser. I did get caught after power-harrowing it as the rain came down. It was a week later before I got back to it.

All cows were calved by May 30. There are now 76 cows milking, at a stocking rate of 4.42LU/ha.

They are producing 28.95litres at 3.58pc butter fat and 3.21pc protein giving 2.02kg milk solids per cow per day and TBC at 6,000. There is a farm grass cover of 699.

I'm looking at taking out two paddocks (1.66ha) for round bales. I will be hoping that the current good grass growths will continue. Cows are on 4kgs of a high UFL 16pc nut.

Pasture sward fertiliser of around 30 units is being spread once a week. I topped one paddock last Tuesday but I will have to be careful as a combination of high stocking rate, reseeding, round baling and topping can do away with a lot of grass.

The Friesian bull was let in with cows on May 23. All maiden heifers are with bulls as well presently. A first scan will take place shortly. Some calves are out on grass and are being given low covers of grass and meals.

The discussion group hired in Grasstec to map out all the milking platform paddocks for the group. In return, I received a large map to be hung up on the farm along with smaller copies. All were laminated.

All paddocks were numbered and measured very accurately.

Measured

The map will allow for the stranger to come in and find a paddock for grazing or whatever without having to give loads of directions. A useful exercise with a small investment required. The map can be downloaded onto my grass measuring package as well.

The big buzzword in dairying at the minute has to be expansion and this was the topic discussed at our last discussion group meeting.

In any business, expansion needs careful planning.

Teagasc have a good planning document out now where one can go through an expansion plan in three stages:

1. Thinking about where you are going;

2. Thinking about what you have to do;

3. Extra costs, extra revenues and extra risks.

The extra risks page is thought- provoking as things like a drop in milk price, losing rented land, the taxman and our own health are sometimes overlooked. Extra cows should mean extra money and an easier lifestyle and not extra work.

The farm safety campaigns are working hard this summer. We are all receiving many texts about farm safety. Now, at this time when children are off school and around farms, we have to be so vigilant.

I hope it is a safe summer for all of us. Tonight sees the first field evening and stock-judging event of the summer for me and my local Breffni Oriel Club.

These will be happening all over the country from now on and are well worth going to.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan.

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