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Sunday 20 January 2019

Henry Walsh: Fertiliser deadline extension has paid impressive dividends

Henry Walsh
Henry Walsh
Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

Viva the Aviva! Last month I wrote I was looking forward to the All Blacks game and the occasion was everything I could have hoped for and more.

Back to reality on the farm and November, similar to October, was very kind to us. Ground conditions remained exceptional and only now in early December have they got soft underfoot.

Minister Creed and the Department are to be commended on the extension to the fertiliser - in particular the slurry spreading dates - as they paid big dividends this year in growing much needed extra grass following the very severe drought. Thankfully, Mother Nature was kind enough to allow it be fully utilised.

We are now completing the last few milkings and drying off 30 cows a day with the last of them hopefully dry by the time you are reading this.

We are holding the fort as out-farm manager John enjoys a well earned holiday in South America, visiting Brazil and Argentina on a farmers' tour.

In previous years they have been to New Zealand, South Africa and the US.

We are already moving straight into winter mode with the silage pit opened on the November 28, a week earlier than normal.

We sold the surplus in-calf heifers in one lot and all the remaining in-calf heifers are block -grazing, while solid ground conditions are allowing us to feed bale silage also.

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This keeps them very content and we will feed dry cow minerals on the silage.

They should stay out till early January at least and at present I have no need to supplement with meal as they are in great order.

When drying off is completed we will dose, hoof pair and BCS the herd and then batch accordingly.

We will feed some meal to dry cows this winter to ensure we have adequate silage reserves.

A subject that is on my mind more frequently is the environment.

It is getting constant media attention now and that concerns me from the perspective that decisions could be taken and regulations imposed on us by sectors outside of agriculture.

Our produce could also be displaced by production in other parts of the world where the carbon footprint is many times less efficient than ours here in Ireland.

We must all respect and do our best to care for the world we live in.

Agriculture is facing new challenges on compliance in Europe and Ireland in particular is currently under the microscope.

We need to ensure we are measured in a fair and equitable manner with credit given where it is due in terms of the efforts all farmers make to comply with best practice and operate within recommended guidelines.

Ireland is a green nation blessed with a wonderful climate for growth.

The ability of our forestry, our mountains and our bogs to neutralise our emissions is massive.

Has the time come for farmers to have a list of actions that they can complete to obtain credits for other farming enterprises?

A shortlist might include renewables such as willow, forestry, solar roof panels on farm buildings, heat recovery systems and energy efficient appliances.

In the meantime, we must continue to implement best practice led and supported by research.

Custodians

Farmers have proven time after time that they are responsible custodians of the countryside.

The progress on slurry storage and utilisation, the silage wrap recycling, and the tyre recycling scheme illustrate what what has been achieved and what can be achieved.

In terms of the future challenges, farming must have a voice at the decision-making table, and any new regulations must be based on solid science.

The importance of food production must be valued and the sector must not be disadvantaged by the interests of powerful international lobby groups whose interests are not aligned with ours.

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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