An early Christmas present for me was the return to Sunday religious services. As I live in a village, Mass is just a two-minute walk, and being so close I’m never in any hurry home.
It’s so good again to get talking to neighbours, friends and fellow farmers.
Recently I was talking to a fellow farmer, and after we chatted about the many woes in the sector, he said it’s time for me to start writing about the negatives.
I could start whingeing and giving out, but clearly this fella thinks I write in a positive tone, and I’m going to stick with that.
The ‘new’ technologies being promoted aren’t really that new.
In simple terms, at farm level we will have to reduce our use of nitrogen fertiliser, spread more lime to make better use of the fertilisers we are spreading, and treat slurry as an asset rather than a liability.
This will mean using LESS all of the time.
If a law comes in either at EU or national level to reduce stock numbers, we won’t have any choice. Hopefully the negotiations won’t allow this happen.
As somebody described it to me last week, there are no more seasons, there is just weather. With the exceptionally mild weather of late, I’d say the leaves are hesitating whether to fall off or stay put.
Grass growth has slowed down, although you could be tempted to graze some paddocks.
The cows were housed full-time on November 5, along with the in-calf heifers and a group of 15 weanling heifers; the other 20 are still outdoors, divided into three groups.
The AFC last week on the milking platform was at 651 and should reach the target of 700-750 by December 1. The only paddock had a cover of 1400 but should be OK over the winter.
A herd TB test was completed during the month and thankfully all animals were clear.
Animals got a lot of hassle that week as they were brought out to be clipped around the tails and udders and along the back. A clipped animal will remain a lot cleaner, especially around the udders as I have also started to dry off cows.
As in previous years any cow that had a SCC reading over 99 in any milk recording will get an antibiotic tube and sealer. Any below 99 will get a sealer tube only.
As this is the last time of blanket antibiotic treatment at drying off I stuck rigidly to the 99 figure.
Drying off cows leads on to dry-cow minerals. I gave the cows and in-calf heifers a bolus of iodine, copper, selenium and cobalt, and I will top this up with a high-quality mineral on the silage.
I have got back the results of my second cut silage. The DM was 37pc, pH 4.8, DMD 74pc, ME 10.7, CrPr. 14.4pc. I was very happy with this.
I also got it tested for minerals and the results showed up high for potassium and sulphur and low in sodium, manganese, zinc and selenium. This balance would not be suitable for feeding dry cows.
I have sent away a sample of the first-cut silage to see would it be more suitable. When the results come back I will decide which pit to open on December 1.
Last month the discussion group visited a heifer contract rearer in Leitrim. It was our first trip away since lockdown — it was like being on a school tour.
The farmer explained very clearly the many advantages and disadvantages of contract rearing. His attention to detail left us thinking we would love to have him rearing our heifers.
One point he made was the importance of weighing the animals regularly. He weighs all his animals every six weeks.
By doing this you can see what animals are behind or ahead of target and take action accordingly. This can mean reducing meal to some and giving more to others.
I weigh my own weanlings twice a year; the first weighing took place a few weeks ago.
The contract rearer told us never focus on the average weight, rather the range of weights and the daily liveweight gain.
My group of 35 heifers ranged from 200-300kg. The DLWG ranged from 0.65-0.98kg. Their ages were spread over 53 days.
The one heifer at 200kg and 0.65kg DLWG had a stomach ulcer problem as a calf, which affected its thrive.
Overall I was very happy with the weights and they will be housed in three groups over the winter. I have promised myself to weigh them again in six weeks.
Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan