Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Cows are out full-time thanks to favourable grazing conditions

All the cows are out in the field now
All the cows are out in the field now
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

The start-stop spring of the past month certainly didn't make it easy for grazing cows but in the past week there has been a complete turnaround. Cows have been out fulltime since March 26 as a consequence of very favourable grazing conditions.

Thankfully there wasn't the same volume of rainfall in Monaghan last week compared to the rest of Ireland. For me, this is the earliest cows have been out fulltime that I can remember.

The silage ground was sown last week. At our last discussion group meeting we discussed soil fertility and sowing for better quality silage. We must base the fertiliser we use on accurate and up to date soil sampling results.

This year I continued to spread cut sward on all silage fields at the rate of three bags per acre or 72 units. This is plus the slurry it received earlier in February of 20 units per acre.

From previous discussions we had on this topic we reckoned we were sowing too much nitrogen and leaving a lot of it still in the grass at the end of May. The cut sward I spread had 3pc sulphur in it which research says can improve the protein in the grass. This is important for intakes.

We discussed again the benefits of producing high DMD silage. This can only be achieved by cutting earlier. One major benefit is the financial saving/gain. We calculated that around €7,000 could be saved in concentrate feed for a 90-cow herd by moving from a 69DMD silage to a 75DMD silage. This is a huge saving which I must aim to achieve.

Grazing paddocks were also sown last week. The last remaining unsown cow paddocks got 55 units/acre of pasture sward. The other cow paddocks got a top up to bring them up to the target of 70 units/acre by April 1. Young stock fields got around 35 units/acre.

Close to 80pc of the cows have calved at this stage. Milking cows are presently producing 25.6litres @ 4.18pc BF, 3.28pc PR giving 1.96kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 69, Therm. 100, Lactose 4.83pc.

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They are getting 7kgs of a high UFL 16pc nut. I changed over to a 16 nut as grass that was tested last week showed proteins of 22pc and DMD's of 80-84pc.

I have a farm grass cover of 730 with a demand/day of 605 at the moment. According to my spring rotation planner last week I have 27pc of the farm grazed. I should be at 58pc. I reckon I should catch up quickly as the cows are out full-time now.

I will have to watch it carefully as I may have to introduce silage to slow down the rotation or risk running out of grass. Here's hoping for good growth.

I had my fourth set of twins last week with two Hereford bulls born healthy and well. Since last month I lost one cow. She had a displaced stomach (LDA), was operated on but never really recovered. The vet reckoned she must have had peritonitis as well. I had to treat two cows for milk fever. They responded quickly enough but one of them had mastitis as well. Calves are going well with no scour to report yet. Calving pens were cleaned out for a second time and disinfected.

The breeding season begins next Monday. Heats from heifers and cows have been written down. Cows have been showing strong heats, some within three weeks after calving. I have washed out any cows that had twins and another four cows that were discharging. The vasectomised bull will be ready to go complete with chin-ball harness.

A few weeks ago I had a class of agricultural science students from the local boys' secondary school. They were finalising their leaving cert projects. Many of them were hoping to find work in the agri-industry which is encouraging for us that are in it now.

Many of the boys were keen to buy calves and I could have sold any amount of beef calves. The boys that did buy were hoping for a turn of cash in the future. I hope so too.

My own student from Ballyhaise will finish his 12-week placement this month.

Everybody should tune in to Big Week on the Farm this week and especially in this part of the country as it is based just up the road in Co Cavan. People will see dairy farming at its best so congratulations to the Shalvey family.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan.

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