Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Ground conditions under pressure as rainfall returns with a vengeance

A farmer ploughs a straight furrow at the South Kerry Ploughing Championships at Fossa, Killarney on Sunday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
A farmer ploughs a straight furrow at the South Kerry Ploughing Championships at Fossa, Killarney on Sunday. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

After a wonderful summer of grass growth, which was above 65kg/dm/day since early May, the rain has returned with a vengeance on the west coast over the last week.

Ground conditions are under pressure with gaps and roadways getting messy. Meanwhile, some parts of the east are still experiencing a drought. Ireland is only a small country and yet the variation in rainfall is massive from east to west.

For many farmers near the west coast too much rainfall causes huge problems grazing.

We have now extended rotation length to 30 days and the cows are going into covers of around 2100kg/dm/ha.

Farm cover is now up to 906kg/dm/ha or 270 kg per cow so at our present stocking rate of 3.35 cows/ha it gives us a demand of 52kg/dm per hectare every day.

Growth is currently averaging 65kg/day but we are noticing a slowdown in growth due to the continuous rain and the forecast is for temperatures to be around 16 degrees for the next week.

We will stay building farm cover until we hit our target of 1100kg/dm/ha at the end of September. To help achieve this we will blanket spread the milking platform with 25 units of urea before the closing date of September 15th.

We will also consider feeding high quality bales towards the end of the month if growth drops below 60kg/dm/day. The cows are producing 18.5 litres @4.77 fat and 3.90 protein or 1.6kg milk solids daily. We are feeding 1.5kg of a 14pc ration and the time has come to take preventative action for grass tetany.

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We have booked the scanner for next Thursday and a lot of our decisions going forward will be based on the results.

We will dry some light first calvers immediately and the bulk of the first calvers will be dried off by October 15. These cows will move to one of the out farms where they will graze after grass with no competition from the older cows.

During this period of rest they will put on condition and grow into mature cows. We will also use the scanning results to identify empty or late April calving cows for culling.

This year because of the low milk price we may decide to dry them off and give them a month on an out farm to warm up for sale to a feedlot.

All of these actions will reduce demand for grass on the milking platform and allow us to stretch the available grass for the milking cows.

I do not intend to apply for the EU milk reduction scheme even though I was notified today by text that the forms are available. I believe that it will be a more profitable option to convert the autumn grass into high solids milk and hopefully look forward to a milk price increase.

Last week we had a very enjoyable visit to University College Dublin for our youngest son Enda's graduation from Dairy Business.

This was a wonderful day where around 300 students were conferred with their degrees in agriculture the culmination of 17 or 18 years of fulltime education since their first day at school.

There was a great buzz about the place and the energy of youth was there to be seen and experienced. No doubt many of those graduates will help to shape agriculture till 2050 when it is predicted there will be 9 billion people on the planet to be fed and watered. We wish them well in their chosen careers.

Also awarded an Honorary Degree was a man at the other end of a massively successful career as a plant breeder, Harry Kehoe. Harry headed up the potato breeding programme for over 40 years and among the 35 varieties he bred the was the popular variety "Rooster" which supplies 60pc of the Irish market.

However Cara was the most successful variety and 40 years after its release it is still universally grown.

Given that the humble "Spud" is the fourth most important food crop in the world behind wheat, rice and maize Harry is leaving a lasting legacy.

I want to congratulate Kevin Moran on winning the FBD/Macra na Feirme young farmer of the year award. This humble young man really is blazing a trail having already won the ag college student of the year followed by a Nuffield Scholarship.

Kevin is the youngest of 11 children and exudes honesty and integrity. A member of the West Awake discussion group, he has not set out to reinvent the wheel on spring calving milk production but he has certainly created a template that will assist a lot of people as they look to enter dairying as a career. I attended an open day on his farm this year and found it very educational and very much look forward to a return visit in the future.

Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway, along with their son, Enda, and neighbour and out-farm owner John Moran.

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