Farm Ireland

Saturday 15 December 2018

Growth has been phenomenal on this dairy farm, but it needed the rain


Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

What a wonderful spell of weather. Glorious sunshine and high temperatures meant water for the cows and cooling for the milk were the priorities. Farming is so enjoyable when the weather obliges and the work gets done with ease.

Growth has been phenomenal for the last month and we harvested surplus bales off the milking platform as 2018 continued its trend of being a year of extremes. These huge swings require close monitoring as the objective is to maintain the grazing sward for the cows as near as possible to 1,400kg/dm/ha every time the herd enter a new paddock. So far this year it has been very difficult to achieve on a regular basis.

We are in a moisture-deficit situation at present, as the widespread thunder showers last week avoided us this time. Growth has once again dropped below demand and while farm cover is almost acceptable at 502kg/ha or 134kg/cow, the nature of the grass is very unsatisfactory as it is stemmy and stressed.

Our roller-coaster year on protein continues as we reached a high of 3.7pc for the last two weeks of May and have been sliding since to our present average of 3.62pc. We will have to endure at least another week at these levels before the rain from storm Hector gets the growth going again. The cows were very late being milked as Hector came with a vengeance, leaving us, along with 35,000 others, without power.

Currently the cows are producing 21.5 litres at 4.3pc fat and 3.62pc protein, 1.75 kg/ms on 1.6kg of ration. In an effort to get quality grass back in the rotation, we are spreading 1.5 bags of 18/5/12 + Sulphur. I hope this will support growth above our current demand, as well as helping the ongoing repair process where some paddocks are still marked since the spring.

Also, we will take out a paddock for reseeding now to utilise all the farmyard manure and wood chip from the wintering pad. This year it is also our intention to reseed more of the out farm land, as the new cubicle shed will see the emphasis on winter grazing reduce a little to producing more quality bales for feeding on the shoulders to the milking cows.

During the next week we will treat all the milking cows with a zero milk withdrawal product for worms. We will also treat all this year's calves with their first ivermectin and wean the youngest group who are still on a half rate of milk. Considering the setback from rotavirus the calves got early on in the sheds, they are thriving well now.

Milk prices have stopped the slide as highlighted by the rise in the PPI index. Butter has continued to trade very strongly above what appears to be the new floor of $6,000. If the powder overhang in intervention could be cleared it would be a big obstacle removed.

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The new Kerry fixed milk price scheme at 33c a litre is very encouraging and when looked at alongside higher international grain and oil prices, we will hopefully soon see a very welcome upward movement in milk price. Costs will be significantly higher in 2018, as highlighted at our last discussion group walk, with everyone present agreeing that as well as costs increasing, a lot more meal than normal has been fed this year to date.

Over the last number of weeks during the 'heatwave', we have attended barbeque parties locally.

Most of our neighbours or fellow guests are non farmers and usually the conversations are diverse, as similar to ourselves, they talk about their work, their interests and sport.

We too are heading into holiday mode on the farm. Trish and I are just after a short break and the next number of weeks will see some juggling as everyone takes some welcome time off.

This could also turn out to be another long, enjoyable summer for Galway hurling supporters and now the footballers are getting in on the act after seeing off the Rossies in the Connacht Final last Sunday.

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

Indo Farming

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