Gerard Sherlock: Grass analysis session was a real eye-opener
Farmers really got into gear this month with a large amount of first-cut silage already made.
The really good weather of recent weeks has given great opportunities to make what will hopefully be top-quality silage.
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My silage was cut on May 14 - probably the earliest ever on our farm. All the factors came together at the right time: the weather was dry and warm, fertiliser was spread almost seven weeks and sugar levels were above five.
While walking through the silage field with my Teagasc adviser, he pointed out that the first leaf had died off and the fifth leaf, which contains the seed head, was appearing.
It is so important to walk into silage fields and pick up grass plants to see the stage of growth rather than just looking at the grass from the vehicle window or over the gate.
I have been disappointed with silage results in the past so I am hoping the earlier cutting will improve quality.
The quantity and yield were respectable enough too.
The grass samples taken showed nitrogen levels at 100 for a small percentage, but less than 10 for the majority of it.
I decided not to tedd the grass out this year as I reckoned it was drying enough.
It was mowed out flat on Tuesday, raked into rows on Wednesday and harvested on Thursday. No additive was applied.
Good help ensured the pit was covered with care. I continue to check the pit daily, tightening down the cover along the walls. Slurry at about 2,500 gals/acre was applied a few days later and fertiliser will be spread soon to keep the second cut growing.
I hosted the third meeting of the Grass 10 programme on May 13.
It was a real eye-opener of a meeting as I was underestimating some grass covers. Grass had grown rapidly within a few days and with high dry matters, swards were very dense and heavy.
I thought I was in a position of grass scarcity, but before the day was out I had a paddock taken out and 10 bales made. Everybody in the group agreed on the importance of measuring properly, and measuring twice a week when there is high growth rates.
At the meeting speakers emphasised the importance of going into covers of 1,400 rather than 1,600 or higher. There is a huge loss in energy resulting in milk solids and yield reduction where cows graze heavy covers.
Last week the farm cover was at 874 with a cover/LU of 161 and cows are being grazed at 5.51Lu/ha. The 90 milking cows are currently producing 29.44 litres at 3.71pc BF, 3.40pc PR giving 2.16kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 91, Therm. 100, Lactose 4.92pc. They are getting 12kg grass and 6kg of a 16pc nut/beet pulp mix. I am entering covers of around 1,400 this week.
I had been spreading 18-6-12 up to now, but now I will be spreading 30 units of CAN+S.
All cows finished calving in early May. Breeding is continuing with AI. It has slowed down with just 10 cows left that haven't showed heats. One is a February calver which needs checking, while the rest are later calvers.
I will continue with Friesian AI until June 12 and then switch to dairy beef AI. I purchased a Hereford bull with good star ratings and he is with the maiden heifers.
The first batch of this year's calves have gone to grass. They were very quiet despite it being their first time outdoors. More will be joining them shortly.
I am organising a TB herd test soon as I have to test every three months after a TB incidence.
The day after the silage was made I had my Bord Bia audit which went very well. I did make a big effort in preparing for the audit. I got the parlour power-washed and free of all cobwebs.
A point highlighted at the last audit was some rust underneath feed hoppers. These were painted, along with the purlins in the dairy which had some spots of rust showing. The paperwork did involve a few late nights, but it all came together in the end. The next one will be due in December 2020.
Over the coming weeks many children and young people will be finishing school and looking forward to their summer holidays.
Many will be helping out on our farms which is great to see, but we must remain always vigilant about safety.
Tomorrow two weeks (June 12) all roads will lead to my neighbour's dairy farm in Emyvale for an open day. Darren McKenna and his family were the NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Award winners for 2018. Many farmers are travelling from all over Ireland to witness dairy farming and milk quality at its best in north Monaghan.
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