The antagonistic language tars all farmers with the same brush and won’t get through to those who are not already doing good work to support wildlife
I have been listening with interest to what’s come out of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, and I feel no connection to it whatsoever.
We are well disposed to farming in harmony with nature. Long before it was fashionable, we undertook various projects to support wildlife on the farm. In more recent times, we have enthusiastically embraced every environmental scheme that was open to us.
I have a problem with the name Biodiversity Loss. It is a negative — never a good starting point. Why not call it something like ‘Biodiversity Gain’ or ‘Helping Biodiversity’?
So much of the language is antagonistic. There is little chance of getting through to those on the far end of the spectrum if you are not even connecting with the middle.
Of course, we all recognise that more needs to be done. But don’t tar everybody with the same brush. You do catch more bears with honey than vinegar. Don’t underestimate the cumulative effective of positivity.
Meanwhile, we took our first cut of silage last week. It bulked up really well. We tedded it out after mowing. But when we rowed it up in front of the harvester, I was a little disappointed in the quality. There is quite a bit of yellowing at the base.
This happened quite quickly and it is probably related to the wet weather followed by the explosion of growth.
It seems I misjudged the volume of grass. In hindsight, I should have cut it a week earlier. We will know more when it is tested.
Generally, we need about 1,200t of silage going into the winter. So when the pit settles a little, we will do our calculations to see how much second cut we need to take.
Some of our second cut is not really second cut: it will be taken off fields that have been grazed up to now. In reality, we cut very few fields twice — it’s more a case that some are cut early and some are later.
In an effort to make better use of our slurry (and reduce our fertiliser bill), we have made a change.
The more we use the dribble bar or the trailing shoe, the more I see the importance of having the slurry well diluted to get the maximum utilisation out of it, and to ensure it soaks into the ground straight away.
So, we bought a 50m, 2-inch flexible hose and connected it to our effluent pump, and are adding extra water from our effluent tank to the slatted tanks, to make the slurry easier to spread.
As soon as the silage was in, we grazed the headlands with the weaned cows, just to tidy up. This week, weather permitting, it will be all systems go with the slurry tanks!
Then, we would be able to work out how much ground we need to let up for second-cut silage. At this stage, we hope to fertilise it like we did for the first cut, with two bags of 18-6-12/ac and top it up with protected urea, up to 80 units of nitrogen.
So far we have succeeded in sticking to our fertiliser budget for the year. It appears to be working well. We have never spread so little artificial fertiliser at this stage of the year and have plenty of grass.
We actually took out two paddocks and put them into the silage pit.
Another two paddocks have been taken out and, depending on the weather in a few weeks’ time, we will either cut them for hay or make wrapped silage. A few bales of hay are always handy!
We recently weaned and weighed a batch of bull calves. There were a few extremes at either end of the spectrum but there was a good solid group in the middle, coming in at 420-430kg, which gives them an average gain from birth of 1.3-1.4kg/day. They are well on target of 400kg carcase at 16 months.
The bulls look growth-ier than we are used to seeing, with slightly less shape. As long as they bring down the scales in the factory, that’s the main thing.
We will wean the rest of the bull calves this week. Next week, we plan to wean all the heifer calves.
When the cows are settled down after weaning, we will sort out any that need their feet tended to. Any with chronic foot problems won’t be bred again.
The priority now with the cows is to set them up nicely for what will hopefully be a successful calving season.
Robin Talbot farms in Ballacolla, Co Laois, in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann