Does your farm need a reality check?

Gerard Sherlock will be opened up the first cut silage pit recently
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

With Christmas and New Year in the distant past, at this stage we have all settled back to the dairying way of life. Believe it or not, grass measuring will be starting shortly.

I have done the transfer over to the new PastureBase Ireland system, which will now collect all grass measurements onto one database.

There is no better reality check than analysing the Profit Monitor figures for 2017. This I will do tomorrow along with the other members of my discussion group at our first meeting of 2018.

Expectations are for a much better bottom line figure than in 2016. This also depends on how well we reinvested the higher milk price we received and how much if any we put aside towards a 'rainy day fund'.

I read through the recent Sunday Independent 'Rich List' and funnily enough nobody with the occupation of a farmer was listed. Will 2017 change that? I don't think so.

A further dampener last week was the George Lee documentary Brexit: Farming on the Edge, which painted a bleak picture for farming in Ireland.

After the programme I was told that George Lee had repeatedly warned against putting all our eggs in a building boom basket.

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The documentary zoned in a lot on the potential reduction in CAP payments. This wouldn't be as big an issue for dairy farmers, as our direct payments are a lot less than the other sectors.

This year the dairy sector must ensure our co-op processors are working as hard as they can to capitalise on the opportunities Brexit will bring and to put in place plans to combat any Brexit threats.

A LacPatrick supplier meeting takes place tomorrow night - plans for 2018 will be outlined and I have no doubt that Brexit will get a mention.

Before Christmas, I got the animal dung sample results back from the lab.

Four samples were taken representing young weanling heifers; first, second and third lactation cows; over three lactations and in-calf heifers.

The first three groups only showed up a low positive for rumen fluke while a low level of Strongyle (which is a type of worm) showed up in group d.

Based on my vet's recommendation, the weanlings were all dosed with Levafas Diamond while all cows and in calf heifers were dosed with Zanil.

Silage pit

The first cut silage pit was opened between Christmas and New Year.

The results of it were 26.4pc dry matter, pH 3.9, ammonia (pc total N) 10.0, protein 12.5pc, ME 10.3MJ/kg DM, DMD 68, FIM intake 94.I was disappointed with these results as I was expecting a higher DMD value.

The grass was cut on May 24, which should suggest a higher figure. I even got two samples tested and they showed identical results. I know that silage quality hasn't improved greatly in general over the last 15 to 20 years even though great strides have been made on grass varieties and silage equipment. It is an area that needs further comparisons.

I must be thankful that it's looking like I will have enough silage for the months ahead. Many of our fellow farmers can't say that. We must be mindful and help out where we can.

Calving boxes got a wash out last week with disinfectant and were just dried out in time for the arrival of the 2018 newborns. Calf pens were set up again.

They are showing their age with rust as they are 35 years old now. They were tightened up 10 years ago when I moved calf house.

Forty cows are presently being milked producing 13 litres at 4.29pc butterfat, 3.30pc protein giving 1.01kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 149, Therm 200 and lactose at 4.71pc.

Dry cows are being fed silage, half kilo of straw and 2kgs of a 15pc beef nut. 100g of dry cow minerals per cow per day is also fed.

The weanlings are being fed silage and straw. The young breeding heifers are getting 3kgs of the 18pc dairy nut and the beef weanlings are getting 3kgs of the beef nut.

I hired out a skip before Christmas and since then it has been filling up with rubbish that accumulated in sheds and houses. I also tackled into the workshop which needed de-cluttering. I am almost there. In recent weeks the tractors were serviced. They needed the usual overhaul with the almost 30-year-old Zetor needing a new handbrake system.

Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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