Tuesday 27 September 2016

We're flat out for the 'Indian Summer'

Gerard Sherlock

Published 16/09/2015 | 02:30

Ken Walsh from Portlaoise taking a break at the recent Eastern Suffolk Sheep Breeders Club and sale at Tullow Mart. Photo: Roger Jones.
Ken Walsh from Portlaoise taking a break at the recent Eastern Suffolk Sheep Breeders Club and sale at Tullow Mart. Photo: Roger Jones.

Even though it is the middle of September the summer-like weather of early last week was welcomed by everybody.

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We have been awaiting the arrival of the 'Indian summer' since the middle of July, so it was a case of 'making hay when the sun shines' and trying to do as many jobs as possible.

I did a final spread of fertiliser at the weekend, with around 25 units of CAN put out on the milking platform.

I would have preferred urea but I was unable to get any locally. Any of the remaining watery slurry and silage effluent in the tanks is being spread at the moment on the outfarms.

The silage effluent is well-watered down with the parlour washings, so it shouldn't have any burning effect on the grass.

Currently the 70 cows are producing 19 litres at 3.69pc fat, 3.51pc protein (1.4kg/cow/day of milk solids), an SCC of 207,000, and a TBC of 5,000 on 2kg of a high UFL 16pc dairy nut. Round baled silage was introduced two weeks ago as the rotation length was getting shorter than it should be at this time of year. The cows are given the silage for about two hours after each milking. I reckon they are eating 16kg of fresh silage daily. Stocking rate is presently 3.41 cows per hectare on the milking platform.

I was asked recently what does the drop in milk price mean in real terms. Comparing July 2014 with July 2015 there was a 7.6c/l drop in price or a 22pc drop in my wages for that month. It's not hard to do the figures for the 12 months - 470,000 litres at a reduction of 7c/l for the year.

So far dairy farmers are coping but from now on as the list of bills lengthens with land lease, contractors, insurance and so on cash flow will be stretched. I don't do enough on cash flow budgeting. I keep paying the same bills at the same time of the year every year.

Thankfully dairy farmers are a resilient group. As I read recently, all we want is a fair milk price which enables reinvestment in our business, provides funds for educating our children and some savings for our retirement.

The in-calf heifers are on grass only. They have plenty of good quality grass and seem to be thriving well.

This year's calves are now in three groups of 12 and are getting grass and 2kg of a heifer nut. The lightest bunch is getting 3kg.

They are all getting the best of the aftergrass. I have plenty of grass for all these animals as I normally would take a third cut of round bales but I didn't this year as I have adequate stocks of silage and it reduces the costs.

I eventually managed to return to some of the drainage work on the outfarm that I had started to do earlier in the year. I got some of the hedges faced as well. It's still not completed and it looks like it will be next year now before it will be finished.

My latest reseeded field has come on really well during last week's warm and mild weather. It is five weeks this week since it was reseeded so I will have to keep an eye out for weeds. I sowed a bag of CAN per acre on it.

One job I completed recently and that should have been done long ago was the calibration of the meal feeders in the milking parlour. Luckily a couple of feeders were not working and the technician that was fixing them agreed to look at them all. There was a big variation in them as some were putting out too much and some too little.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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