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Gerard Sherlock: Why it’s worth reviewing your calving season

Now is the time, while it is fresh in your mind, to look over what went well and what went wrong

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Good results: Gerard Sherlock did an analysis of his figures, which showed that 111 animals calved down producing 115 calves — four sets of twins. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Good results: Gerard Sherlock did an analysis of his figures, which showed that 111 animals calved down producing 115 calves — four sets of twins. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Good results: Gerard Sherlock did an analysis of his figures, which showed that 111 animals calved down producing 115 calves — four sets of twins. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

The past month has brought some of the best growing conditions that I have seen for a long time in May.

When you have a good balance of heat, rain and fertiliser, grass will grow. Maybe nature — or indeed God above — is showing compassion, given the price of fertiliser this year.

A lot of silage crops seem to be growing well and are very heavy. The only fault is that a lot of crops have gone down early this year. Looking at my own silage fields, they will have to be mown at the first chance of settled weather.

The fertiliser has been on for seven weeks now so hopefully when I test the grass samples, nitrogen levels will be low.

I sprayed about a third of the silage fields for chickweed on April 28, using Doxstar at half-rate. I should have sprayed more but I reckoned the grass was too heavy.

With a bit of luck we will get some dry sunny weather, which I would say accounts for at least 75pc in making quality silage.

Day 21 of the breeding season was last Thursday — May 12. Submission rates for the cows should be around 83pc, while for the heifers it was 96pc. One heifer out of 25 remained unserved on Day 21.

Submission rates for the cows weren’t as good as last year. I felt the teaser bull didn’t mark them as well as he should have, and I was missing them.

Twelve cows that had calved in January, February and March and had shown no heat were scanned last week. Two or three of them needed to be washed out.

Depending on the number of repeats, I will continue using Friesian AI for another two weeks and then use beef bulls. A Hereford bull will go with the heifers to another outfarm this week.

The calving season finished up on May 1. The last cow to calve produced a set of twins, both healthy and well. When calving is still fresh in our minds we should all do a review of how things went.

I did an analysis of my figures, which showed that 111 animals calved down producing 115 calves — four sets of twins.

The calving jack was used for two calvings. The mortality rate was 5pc. Four cows retained cleanings, and there were no milk fever cases.

There were no major scour outbreaks, which was an achievement as I don’t vaccinate for scour diseases.

A group of 27 heifers are fully weaned and are in the slatted house on straw and meal. They will go to grass in early June.

About a month ago I decided to vaccinate all the heifer calves that will be staying on the farm for IBR, RSV and PI3.

The point was raised at the discussion group meeting about calves coughing. When I went home and listened to my own, some were coughing.

On the advice of my vet I vaccinated, and within a few days the coughing stopped. At a cost of €9.60 per calf it is worthwhile to improve their immune system.

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Cow numbers are at 100 this year at a stocking rate of 4.25. They are producing 2.46kgMS with a SCC 106. The AFC is 755 and the cover/LU is 178.

Last week grass growth was matching demand. Fertiliser is being spread every two weeks on grazed paddocks, alternating between urea and 18-6-12.

Following on from the last milk recording results, I culled out three cows for high SCC, age and temperament reasons. Ten full rows of cows for milking is enough for me.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the milk price being paid by Lakeland Dairies. The last few months have seen increases of 3c each month.

In all my years on co-op boards 1c or 1.5c was the most it increased.

Various projections are saying dairy costs could rise by 40pc this year. We must keep this mind as we look at our milk cheques this week. Steady as we go.

Brendan O’Neill RIP

On a sad note, back on March 29, Brendan O’Neill passed away. Brendan was the last farm manager in St Patrick’s Agricultural College on the outskirts of Monaghan town.

A native of my own parish and Scotstown, Brendan worked tirelessly to build up the college as a progressive dairy, beef, sheep and pig farm.

The college closed in 2000, having educated around 50 young farmers a year for almost 60 years. That is around 3,000 farmers right across the northern half of the country.

Brendan’s enthusiasm and work ethic enriched many young people to bring out the best in them. May he rest in peace.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan


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