Brief heatwave a boon for winter fodder

Lakeland Dairies
Lakeland Dairies
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

With the August bank holiday just over, the year is certainly moving on. The next one is Hallowe'en and we all know the one after that!

Two weeks ago today we had our one day 'heatwave'. It was very welcome and it allowed a lot of winter fodder to be made all over the country. In my area we had little or no rain for about 10 days but as I was writing this it was raining heavily and I was hoping it wouldn't cause any harm to the new reseed.

The 7ac that I ploughed lay for three full weeks before it was touched due to the weather. Thankfully, when conditions came right, it was a pleasant and rewarding job. Before power-harrowing it got about 2t/ac of lime. Following power-harrowing it got two runs of the land leveller. Then I sowed around three bags of 10-10-20 per acre.

The grass-seed was then sown using a seed drill and the mix was made up of Abermagic, Glenveagh and Dunluce.

In the end I decided to roll the seedbed, even though I haven't rolled any reseeds in years. There are as many arguments for and against. I just hope we get no heavy downpours. One week after sowing grass was appearing. I would expect this as the very warm humid conditions were ideal for germination.

The second cut silage was done during the hot spell on July 18. I got three grass samples tested. They had sugar levels of 3pc, while some of the nitrogen levels were at 250. This was five weeks after spreading fertiliser. The advice given was to cut on the basis of the good wilting conditions.

Time will tell. I used a conditioner tedder on the grass. Any remaining slurry in the tanks was spread the following day on the silage ground. The high growth rates were showing as the fields were green again very quickly.

Presently the 77 cows are producing 22 litres at 3.7pc butterfat, and 3.3pc protein, resulting in a daily output of 1.6kg of milk solids per cow. My TBC is at 5,000, and SCC is 147,000. Lactose levels are at 4.9pc. They are getting 2kg of a high UFL 16pc concentrate. Grass cover last week on the farm was 887kg/ha of drymatter (DM), or 250kgDM/LU.

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I have now taken in all the available ground for the cows - 21.14ha - which leaves me stocked at 3.54LU/ha. This will be the stocking rate to the end of the year.

Grass has really taken off again in last two weeks. I have noticed lately that butterfats have been up and down and have dropped to as low as 3.5pc. Fertilizer is continuing after each grazing at 23 units per acre. I am using urea mostly. One input price that is falling is the fertilizer price. The last quote I got through our buying group was the lowest I have seen in a few years. I took the chance after looking at cashflow and ordered 10t of urea and CAN. Some of this will be kept for next spring.

I scanned the 33 maiden heifers in mid July. Nine were not in calf. Three of these were not long enough served but the other six were disappointments. They were all ok internally but one of them needed estrumate to get things moving.

The bull will come out from them this week. These heifers were all dosed for fluke and worms and received a pour-on for flies. Any remaining calves all went to grass last month. I have kept some Angus and Hereford calves this year.

Last month our discussion group visited Lakeland Dairies site in Bailieboro. We got a tour of the site that included the new dryer just recently commissioned.

One of the production managers gave us a great practical overview on what happens our milk when it leaves our farm.

He stressed to us that they, like all co-ops, are being audited weekly and it is these customers who have to be satisfied on quality and traceability. While in Bailieboro we also visited the independent milk testing labs which were impressive in the range of testing being carried out.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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