Farm Ireland

Friday 17 November 2017

Big push to get 3 litres fed in 2 hrs

Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Spring is in the air. I heard recently that a hedgehog had come out of hibernation a month earlier than he should have due to the mildness. He was being told to go back to sleep for another month. We would all love to be told that.

There are 23 cows and heifers calved. I have three that retained the cleanings, which is annoying and expensive. Two of these were heifers. They had normal calvings but didn't clean. These will be examined at 10-14 days. I will wash them out with an iodine wash if I can or use a wash out with alamysin and water (15-45cc).

I have had a lot of Friesian bull calves. Thankfully they are easily sold at good money. On average, I am getting €150 for them at two weeks old. It's getting to the stage where a heifer calf is a surprise. I'm making a big effort to get the three litres of colostrum into each calf within the recommended two hours. So far so good.

The cow that calves between midnight and 4am takes effort and dedication. I learned a few weeks back to always store plenty of colostrum in the freezer.

On Wednesday, I dumped the six litres out of the freezer from last year which was never used and replaced it with this year's.

On Friday, I got a phonecall looking for some colostrum, which I had. On the Sunday morning, I had a cow calved that couldn't stand up. She pulled a ligament. I had to make a phonecall looking for colostrum, which I got and duly fed. It taught me to fill the freezer and always be prepared for the unexpected. By the way, I always use the two-litre plastic milk cartons to store colostrum as they are easy to thaw out.

The Profit Monitors for our discussion group have been done and dusted for another year. Broadly it was a positive year, but while everybody got on well, we could have done better.

My own herd's milk solids per cow was 461kg; per hectare it was 1,075kg. My net profit/ha was €2,281. This figure is a good measuring tool as it encompasses milk yield, number of cows, net profit/litre and actual milking platform.

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For this year, I have set some targets -- to increase my net profit/litre by 3c by boosting my output value and reducing my feed bill. One factor that contributes to output is animal deaths. Deaths seem to be on the increase on many farms. Every death has a double cost of (a) not having an animal to sell and (b) the disposal cost.

I am going to do more work on cash budgets this year. These will allow me to make quicker decisions on my expenditure throughout the year.

In the middle of last month, the weanling heifers all got their first lepto vaccine shot. All other female stock and the bull got their annual booster. All stock went through a formaldehyde footbath in mid-January for three consecutive days. I had noticed some cows standing on their toes which can be sign of mortellaro. The BVD tags have been ordered. I believe it is vital that we get rid of these diseases. It is costing us too much in vaccines and infertility.

I am getting some soil sampling done. It is nine years since the last sampling was undertaken. I will do six samples this year which will cover 68ac. I have purchased my supply of urea for the spring through our buyer's group. It was a chance I took on the basis that fertiliser will not drop too much more.

The TAMS application form for a new milk tank was sent in. Hopefully it will be processed in time for the peak supply this year. I went for a tank with a 7,368-litre capacity. This will give me enough head room for a 75pc increase on my present peak supply. As somebody said: "It's better looking at it than for it." The ball park figure is €15,000 after VAT refund and grant (hopefully). My present milk tank will be 20 years old next year and I'll be happy if this new one lasts as long.

Next week sees the beginning of the spring rotation. Grass measuring has begun with respectable covers on many paddocks. It is noticeable that grass is very green with little or no dead butts.

Next Monday sees the arrival of a Ballyhaise student on placement. This is my second year as host farmer. A student is selected for participating farmers by the college. He came and met me on the farm two weeks ago. It doesn't take too long to know if the student is suitable -- and thankfully he was. It is important for me to remember that he is coming to learn from me and not for 12 weeks hard labour. Already I love his attitude and willingness to learn.

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

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