With just two days left in May, it has to be shaping up as one of the driest and hottest Mays in decades. I must say the rain was very welcome back in the middle of the month as grass growth really took off. Last week's warm and humid weather got growth really moving.
I wasn't tempted to mow silage in early May. However, I did make about 22 round bales on one of the outfarms. This should be of very good quality. As I am writing this, my first-cut silage is being mowed down. I got three samples of grass tested by Teagasc last Tuesday and they all showed up with no nitrogen and sugar levels at four. I'd expect these sugars to rise more with the soaring temperatures of last Wednesday and Thursday.
I did hear of sugar levels at eight and nine in early May so they have a bit to go yet. Grass was starting to head out last week. My silage fields seem to be heavy, especially the fields I reseeded last year and the year before. I have a bay of silage left in the pit, so I'd imagine the pit will be quite full when all the grass is in. The round-baler contractor may have to be on standby.
I am 10 days earlier than last year at silage, which reflects the good months of April and May we had. The 88 milking cows are presently producing 30 litres at 3.65pc BF, 3.33pc PR, giving 2.14kg MS/cow/day, TBC 10000, SCC 100, Therm. 100, Lactose 4.89pc. Last week, my farm cover was 843. I am stocked at 5.39LU/ha and the grass cover/LU is 156. I am feeding 5kg of a 14pc protein ration with Calmag.
I am getting very good clean-outs of paddocks with no topping needed. Fertiliser is being spread once a week at a rate of 40 units/acre. I am using pasture sward with sulphur and am finished with the sulphur this week as I have spread around 18 units/acre.
All cows are now calved. I was a bit unfortunate with my maiden heifers as two of them are on the point of calving. The Friesian bull got in to them last August.
They were served at just eight months and are calving down at 17 months. Hopefully, they will calve in alright. I couldn't believe they were served so young.
Regarding the cows after almost five weeks of serving them with AI, I let the Angus bull out to them with the chinball. I intend doing a scan this week. The heifers are with the Hereford bull on the outfarm and seem to be quiet enough. I have to dose the maiden heifers for fluke and worms.
Seventeen of the January/ February calves went to the field two weeks ago. They settled down very quickly with none of them breaking into the next townland!
They will continue on meals and will be moving on to aftergrass next week. I have started to use the once-a-day milk replacer with water on the remainder of the calves. It will speed up the feeding of calves for the next month or so and allow more milk to go to the co-op. Thankfully, the calf scour situation has settled down again.
Our discussion group meeting in May was held on the farm of one of our members who has really expanded cow numbers in recent years. He has a great milking platform made up of land of his own, and from some land leases around him. As we told him, he is blessed with good neighbours and the neighbours are blessed to have him. He recently put up a very modern milking parlour which will leave the milking task very comfortable.
Many of our group have expanded in cow numbers, including myself, and many of us are now asking when is it enough?
Ironically, recently I watched a programme on dairy farming in Ireland from years ago. They were interviewing farmers who milked one, two and three cows in the morning, went to the fairs during the day, returned home to milk and then to the pub that night. They reared large families on these incomes. There is such a contrast from the 1960s to today. The biggest change has to be the long hours spent farming nowadays with the greatest challenge being getting the balance right between farming and lifestyle.
Now with the first cut out of the way, it's a chance to get some repairs and maintenance done around the farm. The most effective way to get through this type of work is to list them down, prioritise them and do them.
June will see field evenings taking place. These are well worth attending as we get to meet with other farmers and also to bring home to our own farms some ideas we see working well.
As schools are closing for the summer, we must continue to farm safely as more children and visitors are around.
Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan
* Slurry out on silage ground
* Manage grass