Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

'My costs haven't changed much over the past 15 years' - Top dairy farmer on his profit monitor results for 2017

Gerard Sherlock with Dermot Sherry from the '3D' discussion group in Monaghan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Gerard Sherlock with Dermot Sherry from the '3D' discussion group in Monaghan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Even though the mornings are getting brighter and the evenings are stretching, the snow and the rain are never too far away from these drumlin hills.

Last Tuesday I did my first grass cover measurement of 2018. The two obvious things I noted was a lot of water lying on top of the ground and unfortunately no big grass covers in any paddocks.

That night I fed my grass measurements into the new PastureBase computer programme and it returned a farm cover of 496 kgDM/ha.

All paddocks grew an average of either one or 2kg/day over the past 100 days. It was my first time to use PastureBase and I was happy enough navigating through it.

Like all the programmes nowadays there is an endless amount of reports available to the farmer with many of them helping to improve our efficiencies.

Another feature I used was the Spring Rotation Planner which is a good guide for utilising grass in early spring. I live in hope of starting grazing by February 22 and completing first rotation by April x18.

Unfortunately, the paddocks are very wet and by walking them I realised they are not fit for cow or tractor. No fertiliser has been spread yet but with urea in the shed and the sower greased I await drier weather.

Like many other farmers, I have an abundance of slurry on my farm. After moving around tanks for as long as I could, I decided to get the contractor to mix all the tanks and lower them a bit.

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I moved this slurry into an empty tank that was lying idle close by. This has relieved the situation by about 25,000 gallons.

Profit monitor results

File photo
File photo

Last month's discussion group meeting was devoted to the 2017 Profit Monitor.

We came away in a more positive mood than the previous year and I know everybody has their fingers crossed for this year.

The better milk prices in 2017 also returned better profit monitor results for the same year. The difference in milk price between 2016 and 2017 was an extra 9c/l.

My costs haven't changed that much over the past 15 years. In 2003 total costs of production were 20.66c/l while in 2017 costs were 20.58c/l. There are endless figures to be extracted from the profit monitor.

A few key ones for me are that my breakeven milk price for 2017 was 23.6c/l. This takes into account the cash receipts and payments less drawings and tax.

The net profit/ha on the farm was €3,418, while the costs/ha were €4,369. Milk solids per cow finished at 437kg, litres per cow was 5,883 at 3.90pc butter fat and 3.31pc protein.

For the year ahead I must continue to improve the milk solids as this is how I get paid. Every extra cent per litre I can make, works out an extra €5,000. Calf or cull cow sales won't make this up.

The Teagasc profit monitor does take effort to complete but when it's done you will look at your dairy enterprise as a business and it will answer a lot of pertinent questions. I would encourage all dairy farmers to do one.


Calving is going steady enough with no major hiccups to report.

I attended a LacPatrick organised calf rearing workshop recently. It reminded me again about the importance of the first 60 days of the life of the newborn calf.

Research shows that the first 60 days of life of the heifer calf can affect her first lactation of milk if she was exposed to any diseases.

There are many strains of pneumonias and scours which are now exposing themselves.

Biosecurity and strict controls in and out of the calf house are a must, especially with the expanding numbers of calves.

There was a good demonstration on the correct use of the stomach tube. Hygiene and care are critical for this task. The tube should be clean enough that you would be happy to swallow it yourself.

The weanling heifers have got their first shot of Lepto and BVD vaccine while all the dairy animals have got their six monthly IBR vaccine.

The milking machine got a service and I replaced all the rubber tubing from front to back so all is ready for the new milk season.

Finally, a student from Ballyhaise College has started with us for 12 weeks and it's so far so good.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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