Gerard Sherlock: It's time to follow nature's example and recharge the batteries
The clocks going back is a signal that winter is here and when we look around we can see nature really is slowing down and in a way it is asking farmers to slow down as well.
Farmers have worked hard this year and need a rest to recharge for 2020.
The last month or so has been challenging enough regarding weather, and even scary at times when we see the amount of rain that can fall in such a short time.
During the Ploughing we all thought an Indian summer was here for a while, but by the following Sunday, the monsoon rains had arrived.
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Our dairy cows are still out by day but this week or next week will probably see them housed full-time. I was lucky enough in that cows got to graze every day despite the wet conditions. The cows are coming in at around 4pm each day and go out again after milking the following morning.
The secret over the last month of wet weather was to keep cows moving on through strip wire allocations or sacrificing a bit on clean-outs of paddocks. More poaching is done when cows are walking over grazed areas.
The reseeded ground was grazed out well in mid September and is now being grazed again with the weanling heifers.
I didn't chance putting the cows back on it as it was soft enough. According to my autumn planner, I have 70pc of the grazing platform grazed (target 74pc). I began closing up on October 1 and will finish by November 11.
To date, all paddocks have been grazed nine times and 40pc will have hit the target of 10 grazings per paddock by closing up.
The average farm cover last week was at 700kgs/ha, with a cover/LU of 180kgs and cows are being grazed at 3.03Lu/ha. I need to have a closing cover of 650 - 700kgs.
The 90 milking cows are currently producing 15.2 litres at 4.49pc butter fat, 3.73pc protein giving 1.3kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 140, Therm. 100, Lactose 4.45. The cows are getting 7kgs grass, 4kgs concentrates and 6kgs of silage.
They are getting round baled third-cut silage and surplus grass. I thought the third-cut bales on their own were leaving dungs very loose.
In early October I hosted an AHI/Teagasc Cellcheck workshop on drying off cows. From 2022, blanket drying off with antibiotic tubes will be no more. Selective dry cow treatment is being promoted now.
This means selecting suitable cows and using teat sealers instead of antibiotics. Selecting suitable cows has to be based on milk recording results in conjunction with bulk tank SCC results.
I treated about one third of the cows last year with teat sealers only and had good results. I will do a similar number again this year.
One of the stands at the workshop was devoted to the proper procedure for drying off cows.
Operator and cow hygiene is a huge factor along with good procedure.
I dry off no more than 10 cows at a time as it can be a stressful enough job that requires full concentration. Drying off cows will begin next week, which also means clipping cows tails and udders to improve cleanliness.
As part of the last milk recording, I got a pregnancy test carried out on any remaining cows. Five cows were not in-calf, with a further three needing rechecking. This is about a 9pc empty rate which is a good improvement on other years.
I applied for the Johne's voluntary testing programme and got each cow tested through the milk recording. This programme is part funded, so all dairy farmers should avail of it.
On October 14, a student from Ballyhaise College began a one-month placement with me. Placements at this time of the year are a new departure for the college. The same student will return again for one month in March 2020.
Spring calving dairy farms are winding down, but there is still plenty to be done in preparing for winter housing, washing and oiling of machinery and clipping cattle for the winter.
One of the student's first jobs was to weigh the weanlings. The batch of 23 Friesian heifers ranged from 180kgs to 265kgs. Three were under 200kgs, which is the minimum target weight on October 1. A lot of the heifers had a DLWG of 0.75kg and better.
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to meeting up with many past and present Monaghan Macra members next weekend as we celebrate 75 years of an organisation that has brought so much to so many communities throughout Ireland.
It trained many of today's community, farming and political leaders, it brought together couples, and helped make great friendships. I enjoyed the 50th celebrations in 1994 and hope I will be around for the 100th in 2044.
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