Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Dairy: Cows are out to grass full-time

Cows are out to grass full-time (stock photo)
Cows are out to grass full-time (stock photo)
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

The beautiful weather of last week certainly lifted the spirits. There is no nicer sight than that of cows lying in the midday sun with their bellies full. Recent blips will hopefully be short lived.

The silage ground was all fertilised around April 7. It got approximately 60 units of 24-2.5-10 plus the slurry which should amount to 80 units in total. I have reduced this from previous years in an effort to make better silage.

Last week I rolled some of the silage fields around the ditches and anywhere tracks had been made. I must watch out for weeds, especially docks and chickweed as this week is probably the last chance for spraying. Chickweed is becoming a problem in some fields.

The cows got to grass full-time last week. The second rotation of paddocks began last week as well. There are no heavy covers of grass about but conditions are ideal.

My farm cover is 732kg/ha of drymatter. Stocking rate is 4.71 LU/ha. Cows are being fed 9-10kg grass, 5kg concentrate and 2kg silage. They can eat silage after milking times.

This will decrease as grass covers increase. Cows are producing 28.5 litres at 3.72pc fat and 3.05 protein, giving 1.98kg of milk solids (MS) per cow daily. The TBC is 5,000 and Therm 500.

While there is one heifer left to calve, the next breeding season has already started. Breeding began on April 2. By day 21 there were over 40 cows bred. I was pleased with this and was happy enough that very few were missed. There have been some repeats.

Cows are showing strong heats. I checked the cows last thing at night and it definitely showed up heats that weren't visible in the morning. The teaser bull with chinball harness is now with the cows. This week I must look at what cows haven't yet cycled and get them checked.

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Twenty-one of the 22 heifers have been served as well and as they were being served went to the field. A Friesian bull is with them. He is a new bull purchased. He has an EBI of €250 with a fertility sub-index of €112.


The first of the Herefords arrived in the last month and thankfully there were no problems with calvings. They are good strong calves at birth. One cow had a set of twins which was unexpected.

I had my first calf with scour three weeks ago. It did have to get a drip but it pulled through. It was very sick with the scour.

It was probably the cryptosporidium type as the calf was only one week old. I did treat some of the other calves as they were born with the drench Halocur to help build up immunity.

I had one cow calved very normally and was dead within 24 hours. I reckon grass tetany was the problem given the fact she died so quick. I had some cases of mastitis that were slow enough to cure up. I hope this will end when cows are out fulltime.

My Basic Payment Scheme application form was completed and sent on online by my Teagasc advisor two weeks ago.

I have lost some conacre from the milking platform this year which had to be adjusted on the application form.

I will have to keep a tight eye on stock numbers as the 170kg nitrates level will be exceeded going on where I am at present. The export of slurry could be another option.

In early April Town of Monaghan Co-op organised a two-hour workshop at the Ballyhaise dairy unit looking at sustainable expansion. Their success and high profitability are based on four principles:

  • Using 90pc home grown feed;
  • Environmentally efficient;
  • Long grazing lactation (285+days);
  • High milk productivity (1,250 kg MS/ha).

The take home message was that we can all do much better on our dairy farms and, crucially,bigger is not better.

Speaking of Ballyhaise, my student finishes his 12 weeks of placement this Friday.

I hope they were a productive 12 weeks for him as a good variety of dairy tasks were undertaken.

It was a pleasant experience and I thoroughly recommend other dairy farmers to consider hosting students.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan


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