The terrific weather of the past three months definitely made it a lot easier to farm. And only for the darkness dropping down around 4pm, you could be tempted to work on a lot longer.
On Halloween, I rolled a field that was reseeded in August and never left a mark. Cows were housed full-time on November 6, while all other animals were housed by November 28.
It is the first time that I can remember that cows were housed because I had run out of grass rather than because of the weather.
The final farm cover finished up at 550kgDM/ha. I was happy with this and I am sure it has risen since then, especially with the mild conditions around Christmas.
There are 40 cows being milked at present.
They are producing 15.5 litres at 4.11pc BF, 3.38pc PR giving 1.2kg MS/cow/day, lactose 4.58pc, TBC 5000, SCC 143, Therm 100.
Cows are getting 3kg of an 18pc PR and ad-lib silage. The second cut silage pit was opened on December 21. I haven't got it tested yet.
Cows were eating round bales of silage up to then. I made around 300 bales last year and purchased a further 100. They are now all eaten. Half the cows were dried off before Christmas. After attending a local CellCheck event in November, I used selective dry-cow therapy on some of the cows. As the term suggests, I only selected very healthy young cows (first and second lactation) with consistently low SCC results based on milk recording.
These cows got the sealer NoroSeal and no Cepravin antibiotic tubes.
Following on from my TB outbreak in October, I had my first clear TB herd on December 13.
My second test will be due in mid-February so everything will be crossed hoping for a clear result.
With TB, stock sales are confined to the factory. I had 10 cull cows as a result of not being in calf. Five of these went to the local factory. They averaged 267kg cold weight and €2.37/kg each. I must say I was pleased with this as mart prices are not good for plain Friesian cows.
The nine young bulls that I am still feeding are due to go this week and I won't be sorry. They were due to go before Christmas but because of a strike in the factory, it didn't happen.
The beef trade isn't easy, even with my limited experience.
The long-awaited generator arrived and was wired up and tested just in time for Christmas. The 39KVA generator is more than capable of running the farm at present. It is a large investment, but it is a necessary item on all dairy farms now.
I was caught out three times in 2018 without power for milking and the way the weather is going with more storms, dairy farmers don't need that hassle.
Back in October, I had the pleasure of visiting Germany with a group of 60 people on a trip hosted by MEP Mairead McGuinness. On one of the days we visited Strasbourg, which is an exciting place to be. For the rest of the days we travelled around Germany. It struck me that I felt very safe in this country, probably because of its low-tolerance laws. It also struck me how few animals are grazing outdoors. With its huge milk producers, a lot of the milk must be produced indoors. This made me realise the importance of our grass grazing image and how we must continue to capitalise on it.
Looking back at 2018, there were many positives and negatives. For me, the weather was very kind to us here in Co Monaghan.
Granted it was a late, wet miserable spring but nature and weather will always adjust itself. There was a lot of work and investment carried out this year and all of the main jobs such as silage making and reseeding were done in comfort.
On the downside, TB did strike which is a challenge but hopefully I am winning the battle.
There was much disappointment around our local co-op LacPatrick, and was sad for so many including myself. I hope that the new merger in 2019 will bring stability and a profitable future for everybody, and particularly for the next generation of dairy farmers and workers.
Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan