Gerard Sherlock: After a remarkable summer for grass growth it's time to start thinking about autumn covers
The last six weeks has to be among the best periods for grass growth I have witnessed during my years of farming. Growth of over 100kg/day were recorded in a lot of my paddocks.
The perfect combination of rain and heat and nitrogen has driven grass at speed. It is often said we farmers are good at growing grass, but utilising and managing can be the real challenge. We are now in August so it's time to be thinking about building covers for the autumn. Last week I brought in 5.4ha of aftergrass which has really changed the grass wedge.
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The average farm cover last week was at 951 with a cover/LU of 242 and cows are being grazed at 3.93LU/ha. Average growth was at 101, while the demand is at 60.
The 90 milking cows are currently producing 23.3 litres @ 3.85pc butter-fat, 3.43pc protein giving 1.75kg MS/cow/day, TBC 7000, SCC 97, Therm. 200, Lactose 4.71pc. They are getting 15 kg grass and 3kgs of a 16pc nut.
The aftergrass has a cover of about 1700 and the cows are flying through it.
I am spreading CAN or urea at 23 units/acre. I am now between my sixth and seventh grazing rotation and some paddocks are being topped. Two paddocks have been baled in the last three weeks producing 17 bales. Any paddock that hasn't been topped yet will be baled shortly.
Second-cut silage was harvested on July 4, just seven weeks after first cut on May 13. Three grass samples were tested. They had sugar levels of 3.5-4.5 and had nitrogen levels of 50, 25 and 100mls. I wasn't concerned with the sample at 100 as the grass got a good wilt.
As with the first cut, I didn't tedd out the grass because it was mowed dry and there were good wilting conditions forecast. It was mowed out flat on Thursday, raked into 25-foot rows on Friday and picked up on Saturday.
I will be disappointed if silage results are not very good this year as grass quality and weather conditions were ideal.
There are a lot of advantages in having an early first cut including grass quality for both first and second cuts and getting the most out of peak grass growths.
Any remaining slurry that was in tanks was spread - 40-50 units of nitrogen were applied as some of the ground will be cut a third time.
All cows were scanned on June 26.
Out of the 90 cows, 51 were scanned in-calf, with the remaining cows not long enough served but ok. Four cows needed washing out and an injection of estramate to bring them cycling again. One needed receptal to remove a cyst. The bull is in with the cows three weeks now and activity has been quiet enough. I hope to finish all breeding this week.
The heifers were scanned also and two of them needed treatment for a cyst and were given receptal.
It is 30 years now since my late father and myself purchased land.
In the last six months an opportunity came up for me to buy a block of land that adjoins the milking platform. I am now able to access three acres of my own land that I couldn't access with the cows before.
In conjunction with my Teagasc advisor, we set out a plan to reseed a good proportion of the new land. The first step was to soil sample, and then boundary hedges and internal hedges were tidied up.
There is an area that needed drainage which is naturally low-lying.
The new land was walked many times to plan for paddocks and roadways.
At the last Grass 10 meeting which I hosted I got many suggestions.
One suggestion I thought very important was to look at a map of the ground and plan paddocks.
I am now at the stage where around 13 acres were sprayed off for reseeding on July 13.
It was ploughed last week and I am hoping by the time I am reading this the grass seed will have been sown.
I debated whether to plough or not to plough, but I think ploughing is the better option for this ground.
I attended a Lakelands reseeding workshop recently and the three options of plough, min-till and zero till were scored.
Ploughing came out as the better option as it will level ground, break up surface compaction and have soil to seed contact very satisfactorily.
A 300m roadway has been made with 300m of waterpipe laid.
Two concrete drinkers of 375 gallons and two of 160 gallons have been installed. I decided on the bigger ones because of the distance of the water pipe.
Finally, even though the summer is busy, it is important to support all the great shows that are taking place over the coming weeks including my own local Tydavnet Show on August 17.
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