It's time to clear the slate before milk cheques start drying up

Pictured at the 'Smart Farming' seminar in Listowel were Gerard Courtney, Dominika Kroll, David Trant, Teagasc, Emma louise Coffey, Dr. Edmond Harty and Jimmy Deenihan.
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

The grazing season is drawing to a close for us on the milking platform.

Our target was to graze until December 1, then dry off abruptly once we finished the grass. This week we have 95pc of the farm closed with just four hectares remaining so we are on target.

The last two paddocks have very high covers of over 2500 kg/dm/ha so they must be grazed.

Overall farm cover is at 600 kg/ha and when the last four ha are grazed it should leave us with a closing cover of 550 kg/dm/ha.

Demand last week was down to 23 kg/ha on the farm. This is a stocking rate of 2.5 cows/ha and they are being allocated 9 kg/dm of grass, 3kg ration plus 5 kg/dm of silage.

We dropped the stocking rate from 3.68 cows/ha at the end of October by drying off the first calvers and fully housing the empty cows.

Current performance is just over 11 litres per day at 5.6 fat and 4.2 protein or 1.1 kg/ms/day.

We are struggling with SCC over the last three weeks with the average moving up to 225. We are not milk recording again this year so all cows will be treated with dry cow tubes and teat sealer as selective sealing is not an option.

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Our milk solids' output since late August was lower than I had expected, no doubt due to the high levels of rainfall endured in the region.

The weather has been very wet all through and while the volume of rain has dropped off in recent weeks, there has been almost no day without rain and there has been no "drying".

We have definitely marked the ground more than what is acceptable which will have a negative effect on the grass sward over time.

However, I am thankful we were able to stay grazing unlike many suppliers in the region.

I took a look at our performance for 2017 based on the milk statements and estimated our November production.

My calculations show that each cow in the herd will produce 4,975 litres (including milk fed to calves) at 4.61 fat and 3.77 protein.

This equates to 429 kg/ms/cow at a SR of 3.68 cows/ha this gives us an output figure of 1,578 kg/ms/ha for 2017.

Meal fed to date is 575 kg/cow made up of mostly coarse ration which cost us €227 a tonne this year.

While we are stocked very high on the MP this is possible because our overall farm SR is 2.36 LU/Ha and therefore all winter feed can come from the outside blocks.

As usual this time of the year finances assume centre stage. Tax must be paid and we are actively clearing any outstanding bills as there is no point waiting for the contractor or merchant to call.

I believe it is very important to clear the slate because there will still be costs over the winter from living expenses and bank repayments, but the milk cheques will start drying up until late spring.

It is also the time to start thinking about a rainy day fund because 2018 may not be as profitable.

We also need to be prepared for hidden forage costs in the west. Many farms will be short of winter feed, others will find their pit is not good quality due to low DMD, low protein or poor preservation.

This will result in cows with low BCS at calving or poor quality colostrum unless the are fed a purchased supplement.

We have almost finalised the plans for the new milking parlour and cubicle shed.

We will retain the pad for now, but we are short accomodation for well over 100 cows as the herd continues to expand.

We are going for cubicles as the pressure on the land increases with the high stocking rate.

This will give us the option of on/off grazing on the shoulders which is now essential on our farm with the current stocking rate.

Last week our milk purchaser the Kerry group made a very good offer of 1.75cent/litre on all milk supplied in 2017 to resolve the 'leading milk price issue'.

Agreement would be welcomed on all sides on this matter and the payment would be very welcome also.

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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