Henry Walsh: The rain arrived just in time to end a mini-drought

Stock image.
Stock image.
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

All the talk in Galway now is about the Races, the climax of the summer festivities in the county.

We are having a quiet summer after being spoiled for the last few years supporting the hurlers every weekend from one epic game to the next.

Back on the farm, our grass wedge was showing the effects of a mini-drought last week which saw growth drop to 29 and cover per cow down to 105.

We decided to leave the meal at 1.7kg per cow. Instead, we took advantage of the fact that the second-cut silage had a cover of around 1500 to zero graze in some of this grass as we estimate our winter feed requirements are almost satisfied.

This is a relatively simple process whereby we call Larry, our contractor, and he cuts and delivers the loads into our yard daily as required.

This adds about 7c/kg to the cost of growing the grass on the outfarms but, in particular in a year like this when I am not interested in adding to my winter feed reserves, it avoids the cost of purchasing grain to fill a short-term deficit. In total we imported 10ha of zero grazing this time or 50kg/dm/cow.

The recent rains have kick-started the growth again and grass looks like it will burst out of the ground for the next week or more.

Cows are producing just over 20 litres at 4.6pc fat and 3.8pc protein or 1.75 kg/ms. This is a critical period in our efforts to maintain mid-lactation milk production, which is the third element to achieving good output per cow after compact calving and achieving a good peak.

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We finished breeding on July 10, three weeks earlier than the norm for the last 18 years.

We also stayed with beef AI till the end and let no bulls tidy up this year, so fingers crossed that repeats remain low. I held onto the bulls in case we had a change of heart but they went up in the truck last week, on July 21, so there is no going back now.

Coughing cows

On the dosing debate, we still have no coughing cows so we continue to hold off and test dung samples at the first sign of coughing.

I find at this time of the year the day-to-day farming workload eases off and the opportunity presents itself to look around at what can be improved.

Currently we are re-routing and upgrading a few water pipes as well as some temporary connections that emerged during construction of the parlour.

As part of the new build we are now pumping the water from a holding tank instead of the well. This has increased the water pressure around the farm, and a few leaks have shown up as well as a few ball-cocks that are not sealing fully.

We have Mattie back with the digger to get ground around the parlour landscaped and growing grass again.

There is also another paddock to be reseeded now and that will finish it for this year as we will soon start building farm cover for the autumn.

The Irish Grassland Association had its summer dairy tour around Athlone this year.

This was a very interesting day. It was hosted by two energetic farmers who gave up the day job and converted their suckler, beef and sheep farms to dairy in 2014, the last year of quotas, by availing of national reserve and purchased quota to get started.

Both farms have expanded much faster than planned due to extra land becoming available unexpectedly beside the milking platform.

While the farm circumstances were different on the two farms to start with, there were a lot of common denominators on both farms throughout the day.

These included: excellent family support, minimising capital expenditure, beef stock converted to dairy, financial discipline and budgeting, joining dairy discussion groups, soil testing and re-seeding, and investing in farm infrastructure.

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