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Monday 22 January 2018

Housing cows for the night is not the backend we expected

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Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

As you read this I can only hope that it's a lot drier weather than when I was writing these notes last week.

The rain is back with a vengeance. The devastating downpour on August 22 was the start of it. I was indoors at a meeting for most of that day. When I was driving home in the evening it had eased off. Coming near home I spotted a flood of water coming down a field.

I thought first it was a burst pipe or water escaping from a tank. It wasn't long until I realised how wet it was when I was going for the cows.

Last week's rain did ground no favours either. With water just sitting on the top of the ground a quick decision had to be made on Tuesday. The cows were housed for that night. It's not the 'backend' of the year we wanted.

The milking cows are on round baled silage after milking since September 4 With the wet weather cows were walking through grass too fast.

They had to be slowed down and 10 cows were dried off three weeks ago. The 80 milking cows are presently producing 19 litres at 4.06pc butterfat, 3.42pc protein giving 1.44kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 159, Therm 100, Lactose 4.90pc. Cows are getting 4kgs of a 18pc protein nut.

Present farm cover is 810 with a 31 day rotation. There was no nitrogen spread since September 5 and last Friday saw the close period begin for nitrogen use.

Given ground conditions, grazing will have to be carefully managed to avoid poaching.

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The challenge now is cleaning out paddocks as best as possible. I have begun strip fencing to assist this. I have to maintain milk yield as best possibly too given the milk price that's there.

Despite the weather, I did get some of the third cut baled on September 2, the last dry day we have had. I made 104 bales. They were as dry as I could get.

I mowed the grass on Friday, raked it on Friday evening and baled on Saturday. As this was all done on outfarms. I hired in four tractors and balelifters. The bales were all home in about three hours. There is still about seven acres to be baled and if weather conditions don't improve they will not be made.

Last week I dosed all of the weanlings and moved them around to fresh grass. I put the strongest of these in a group of 24, mainly Friesian heifers, into the wettest part of the field with the grass I have for baling. I am hoping they will eat it out as best as possible without doing much poaching. They will not get any meal.

The two fields I reseeded in August are doing well. They could have done with some nitrogen but were too soft to travel on. There is a fair bit of chickweed in one of them so if I get a chance I will spray it.

I did manage to secure some straw last week. It was winter barley straw that had been stored indoors in Wexford. It did work out a little bit more expensive but the straw is good quality.

What seemed like good value in fertiliser coming through our buyers group was ordered and is to be delivered and paid for next month.

It's a gamble one takes but some sources say fertiliser is going up next spring. Another gamble I have taken is to purchase a new touch screen mobile phone. My old phones all served me well for the past 18 years. Hopefully, the one I picked will stand up to the abuses of farming.

Thirty years ago this year I attended my first ploughing event. I was in St Patrick's Agricultural College and we were brought by bus to the Charleville Estate in Tullamore.

Back then it was a two day event and was held on October 7/8. I looked it up and saw that the livestock events were first introduced in 1987. The Ploughing has developed considerably over the last 30 years.

There really is something for everybody. I only hope the weather won't spoil things but if you're coming, be prepared.

Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan


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