Gerard Sherlock: It's the end of an era for me as our local co-ops merge

Dairy Farmer Gerard Sherlock at his farmland in Tydavnet Co Monaghan.
Pic Steve Humphreys.
Dairy Farmer Gerard Sherlock at his farmland in Tydavnet Co Monaghan. Pic Steve Humphreys.
Lakeland Dairies
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

We all knew that the fabulous February couldn't last. The heavy rains and sleety showers in early March ended the grazing fairly abruptly but thankfully cows are back out again and grazing very happily.

They were housed full-time in early March and didn't get back out until March 22. According to my spring planner I should have 59pc of the grazing platform grazed by the end of last week. In actual terms I have 40pc.

All is not lost as I will catch up fairly quickly in the coming weeks. My end date is April 12, but I will have to look for an extension to slow the first rotation down. Paddocks are being cleaned out well.

The paddocks that were grazed in February now have covers between 500-700 on them. I spread 30 units/acre of Urea last week for a total of 60 units year to date. Presently the farm cover is 1050 and cows are being grazed at 4.71Lu/ha.

The 75 milking cows are presently producing 24litres at 4.11pcBF, 3.18pcPR giving 1.73kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 100, Therm. 100. I am expecting these solids figures to improve when grass is in the diet again. The cows are getting 7kg of grass, 5kg of a 18pc P nut and 6kg of silage.

Calving continued steadily throughout March with about 15 left to calve. My last Friesian arrived just before St Patrick's Day. It will be all beef bred calves now. The Friesian bull calf trade was difficult this spring. The ongoing problems with selling them were discussed at our last discussion group meeting. One issue highlighted was a big variation in prices.

We all wanted to sell our Friesian bull calves as quickly as possible, but not for poor money. The quality of our Friesian bull calves have improved in recent years. Over the last month I sold Friesian bull calves for prices, ranging from €30 to €70.

The dearer ones were at least six weeks and over.

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Dairy farmers are only looking for a fair price for fair calves. The fact that meat factories are not interested in killing Friesian bulls doesn't help our plight either. Every year we accept the poor prices but this has to change soon.

I sold off all the Hereford and Angus weanling bulls recently. They averaged 369kgs and made €1.70/kg. I reckon the Hereford weanlings did better than the Angus because they weighed heavier. I have very few maiden heifers this year and I did consider buying some. My information so far is that quality stock are expensive and scarce.

Breeding season

The breeding season will start within two weeks. Last week I finalised the team of bulls that I am using. They are FR 4513, 2460, 2298, 4481, 2236. This team of bulls have a weighted average of €288 EBI, €124 Fertility, 109 kg milk, 29.1kg F+P, 0.18pcF, and 0.17pc P. I got two Hereford weanlings vasectomised in early March.

I am tailpainting to record heats at the minute. I will use the AI service again this year as I was pleased with results last year. Cows were vaccinated for IBR in mid February and in mid March for Lepto. I decided not to vaccinate for BVD this year as I believe the disease is well under control.

With the good ground conditions I got all of the silage ground sowed last week. Most of the silage ground got the compound - sulphur cut - 22-1.8-12+S. Also used was Urea. I tried to match up as best as I could with the my recent soil results which showed the ph or lime requirements were improving. Some P levels were at index 1 and 2. These fields will be treated accordingly.

Yesterday saw the long awaited merger of LacPatrick and Lakelands co-ops to form Lakeland Dairies begin in earnest. Last week I attended my last board meeting of LacPatrick and it marked the end for me of almost 30 years of representing dairy farmers.

From a young age I was involved with the co-op; it educated me, challenged me and, in some instances annoyed me. The co-op business is a unique one and as a director you are all the time balancing the needs of the farmer and the co-op. I learned a lot, I met and worked with some great people and I left an entirely different co-op behind me. Good luck to my successors and to the new Co-op Lakeland Dairies.

Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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