Our discussion group is coming together this week for a night meeting with a nutritionist to analyse the group's current situation and our winter feed options.
To assist with this, our Teagasc advisor has circulated a winter feed requirement document and calculator to assess each farm's current reserves and identify the shortfall. Based on the results we will look for solutions to avoid deficits next spring.
At present there are a number of indisputable facts. Winter feed reserves from previous years are pretty much wiped out.
As on most well-stocked milking platforms, we need to be building farm cover from early August so that looks to be a challenge now meaning no surplus will be grown. Native grain production will be down on normal years with a lot of it already spoken for. No doubt there will be more imported grain as forage stretchers, but could there be cheaper local solutions?
Can we ask understocked farms for second cut land or a winterage and fertilise option.
Outfarms may provide an option for many farmers. Can they be fertilised stronger than normal when the rain returns?
Could we harvest a good quality crop before the end of August and then fertilise again immediately?
This year ground conditions could remain drier than normal which would allow late grazing to proceed which would in turn delay housing and the opening of silage pits.
We have been doing this for years but for it to work the ground must be cleaned in August and well fertilised immediately.
The best growth will be got from August fertiliser with a rapid drop off in September. The seasons are different this year and September/October could be two great grass growing months. Should we plan that they will be?
The milking platform is almost completely brown as incredibly we have now gone six weeks with just one day's rain from Storm Hector.
Growth was below 10kg/dm/ha for the last two weeks and the average farm cover is 299 kgs or 80kgs per cow. We are trying to maintain a 25-day rotation but really now it is all about supplementation.
Currently the cows are giving 19.7 litres at 4.6pc fat and 3.55pc protein or 1.65 kg/ms/day. The protein is very low but they are only getting about 3kg/dm/day of grazed grass and 2kg/dm of zero-grazed second cut silage grass which is now finished. This is supplemented with 5kg of round bale silage cut from the milking platform earlier in the summer and 6kg of ration.
We bought a load of palm kernal last week which we are feeding ad-lib from a builders trailer in the field. While they were slow to take to it they are now eating about 2kg/hd/daily on average but I do not know if every cow is taking it.
With the meal we struggled for water during the real heat, especially just after milking so I took a pipe directly from the plate cooler and let it flow unrestricted into the first water tank the cows passed after milking and this satisfied them immediately.
Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway, along with their son, Enda, and neighbour and out-farm owner John Moran