Two weeks ago, our farm hosted two groups of farmers. On Monday, July 13 a Grass10 meeting took place after a lapse of 23 weeks; two days later, the discussion group met after a lapse of 21 weeks.
Even though we had kept in touch through Zoom, conference calls and on Whats App, everybody was glad to meet up face-to-face, even if we had to maintain social distancing.
The Grass10 group walked the farm to assess grass covers and qualities. The main emphasis was on how to remove surplus grass as bales to maintain the 160kgs of cover/cow.
Over the past five weeks, I have baled 60 bales of surplus grass. Many of these were paddocks that were mowed and baled straight away as weather dictated. The baling of paddocks also helps improve grass quality too.
It still takes a lot of determination and confidence to continually put cows into paddocks with covers of 1,400 because a batch of cows don't be long eating through 1,400 covers.
But research shows this is the ideal cover for maximising milk solids and profit. From next week on, I will begin building grass covers for the autumn. Ideally, all baling of surplus grass should finish this week. Protected urea is still being applied after each round. This week I started the seventh grazing rotation on the milking platform.
A number of the grass topics were covered during the discussion group visit. The main topic, however, was on how to develop my 25ha milking platform to its full potential.
Everybody agreed the extra land acquired integrated nicely into the farm. A figure of €1,500/acre was spent on developing the new ground which included roadways, drainage, reseeding, hedges, fencing and water.
Recent Teagasc research suggests that a stocking rate of four cows/ha (100 cows on 25ha) is achievable provided every acre that is being grazed is growing 15t.
This is a tall order and a challenge when I am working on leased and fragmented blocks. This target of four cows/ha will be the goal on our farm for the next couple of years. Some planning for extra cow accommodation will also have to be put in place along with milking facilities.
We also looked at the recent reseeds. These were doing well, but need to be managed vigorously to avoid grazing them with strong covers. Around 1,200-1,400 is the maximum recommended. While looking at the reseeds, the topic of clover was discussed.
Growing and managing clover will need new thinking and new approaches. We all agreed that clover is best sown the following year after reseeding. This will allow weeds to be properly controlled at post emergence stage.
We can't afford to dismiss a mixed grass/white clover sward.
Teagasc research figures show it can generate increased farm profits of €150/ha through increased milk solids production from better dry matter intakes and the potential to reduce nitrogen fertiliser.
I am glad to see that Ballyhaise are beginning trials on clover and hopefully before too long dairy farmers will benefit from this research.
Last month, I began my column by noting how much I was enjoying the welcome rains, but now we are hoping for some respite from the elements.
This is the unanimous wish of farmers around here. Grass growth really rocketed since last month and although wet, it is still warm and humid. Two or three dry days followed by two or three wet ones seems to be the norm now.
I managed to get second cut silage done on July 9. It was mowed down on Thursday, raked up on Friday and ensiled on Saturday. I didn't tedd it out as I thought the weather wasn't good enough. There was a good heavy crop and we calculated about eight tonnes/acre of fresh grass came in.
Any remaining slurry in tanks was applied and some of the fields are fertilised again for a third cut.
For the next few weeks the workplan is to prepare for the autumn and winter. Slatted houses are currently being power-washed.
I am planning on repairing some broken concrete in the feed passage.
I am also looking at extending the cow collection yard which will involve some new concrete and some gates.
Any chance I can get I am spraying the silage fields for docks.
Another paddock on an outfarm has been burned off for reseeding. Fingers crossed the dry weather will return.