Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

'It's been a good spring even if we seem to be perpetually busy'

Any dairy farmer can improve profitability according to our experts
Any dairy farmer can improve profitability according to our experts
Mattie Kelly, Cloughbrack, Newbridge, Ballinasloe with Cloughbrack Manuel, one of the winners at the Charolais Bulls Show and Sale in Tuam.
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

IT'S 37 years since Johnny Logan won the Eurovision, singing 'What's Another Year?'. For dairy farmers 'another year' seems to mean more expansion. There is a continuous year-on-year increase in scale occurring on most dairy farms.

This, combined with the ongoing move to spring calving along with the focus on increasing the six-week calving rates, is increasing the workload.

This spring was good weather wise and price wise and yet I have a feeling of perpetual business.

There is no doubt that expansion is leading to a more profitable and viable farm business but we must learn to manage it. Sometimes in the middle of the calving it can be difficult to look at the bigger picture. Now is the time to pause a little and take stock.

Where were the bottlenecks this spring? Was it the calf shed, the milking parlour, the winter housing or the farm roadways? Now is the time to take note of issues while they are fresh in the mind and put a plan in place as to when it will be fixed.

For us, the 16-unit milking parlour continues to come under pressure with 19 lines of cows now being milked.

We have spent some time over the last few weeks considering our options. We have visited and milked in a number of parlours and involved our discussion group in debate on the subject. We are looking to have a parlour operated by just one milker.

The consensus with almost everyone we talk to is that between 20 and 26 units is the maximum one person can manage. If we build a 26-unit parlour with automatic cluster removers (ACRs) and automatic washing etc, it will significantly shorten milking times but the point was well put to me that at today's herd size we would still have 12 lines of cows the first day we start milking.

Also Read

The decision to commit to a large capital project like a milking parlour is influenced by the fact that part of our milking platform is made up of leased land.

In our position, we must balance that with the milking workload milking.

We want to make the parlour an enjoyable place in which to work as it is the most important machine on our farm and by far the most time consuming job.

Conditions are superb for farming at present with dry ground and very pleasant temperatures.

We are getting short of grass as the reported widespread rain did not land here. We have a demand of 55kgs of dm/ha/day based on a stocking rate of 3.65 cows/ha by 15kg dry matter intake daily plus 2kg of ration.

Growth rate last week was 42kg/day resulting in AFC dropping to 528kg of dm/ha or 144kg per cow.

In normal circumstances in early May I would be fine with this, but we are in a moisture deficit with no rain forecast. The cows are going into low covers of 1200 but that is now dropping to 1,000.

They are producing over 24 litres at 4.2pc fat and 3.6pc protein or 1.95kg of milk solids daily. We increased the meal to 4kg per cow for four days but have now started importing zero grazed grass.

We will keep this in the diet for a week which allows us to drop the meal back again to 2kg, hold the rotation at 21 days and see if the rain comes.

Breeding season

The breeding season started on May 4 with all cows getting painted for the second time. Over 10pc of the cows did not have the paint removed so we will take action on these over the next week by putting them on once a day or getting the vet to check them.

We also put a heat detection aid on the 70 heifers for AI and then the JEX stock bulls were let with the remainder of the heifers.

The heifers will be AI'd once and any heifer not showing heat by day seven will get a shot of estrumate.

The stock bulls will pick up any repeats.

Last year 65pc of the heifers held to the first service and by using the estrumate all AI was finished by day 12.

This led to the repeats being bred a second time within a month and resulted in over 90pc of the heifers calving in the first month.

We believe this is very important as the first calved heifer takes longer to cycle and this gives her every opportunity to stay in the herd.

This morning we had the reading of the annual herd test and all was clear, thank God.

We can now focus on the breeding season and keeping enough quality grass in front of the cows.

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

For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App

Indo Farming