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Friday 19 October 2018

Milk price cuts cast a cloud just as the sun begins to shine

Liam, Billy and Mark Heffernan - Leinster Winners of the Grassland Farmer of the year competition - pictured with Michael Freaney Teagasc dairy advisor and John Maher Grass10 Campaign Manager at the farm walk hosted by the Heffernans on their farm in Dunamaggin, Co Kilkenny. Photo Roger Jones.
Liam, Billy and Mark Heffernan - Leinster Winners of the Grassland Farmer of the year competition - pictured with Michael Freaney Teagasc dairy advisor and John Maher Grass10 Campaign Manager at the farm walk hosted by the Heffernans on their farm in Dunamaggin, Co Kilkenny. Photo Roger Jones.
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

What a welcome boost it is to get some pleasant weather which allows the cows eat their fill of nutritious grass and lie on dry ground while enjoying some occasional sunshine. This is the first time this year that I can say the cows are content.

Heat activity has been strong since we started AI on May 4.

Due to the very difficult spring, we have fed almost 300kg of concentrate per cow to date.

The cows have been on a rising plane of nutrition since late April, and I am hoping all the extra meal fed prior to that helped minimise BCS loss and will now benefit them during the breeding season.

We are 14 days into breeding and on target to hit 90pc in three weeks.

On the grass side, a lot of our paddocks have been severely marked a number of times since September.

This ground is finally getting solid so I expect the cows will level out the bumps over the next few grazings and we will overseed a few badly damaged areas with the guttler.

This year the challenge is bigger than normal and I hope the worms are still around in sufficient numbers to help out. I am concerned about the worms because this spring every time we spread slurry, the fields turned white with seagulls. This was no doubt due to the saturated soil forcing the worms to the surface.

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We are looking at cutting our first paddock for bales as a surplus has arisen.

We are stocked at 3.75, allocating 15kg of grass plus 2kg of concentrate.

This gives us a demand of 56kg/dm/ha and growth is up near 70 at present. AFC is now 675kg/dm/ha or 180 per cow. Covers are exceeding 1,400kg/dm/ha in front of the cows for the first time this year.

Milk output has increased to normal levels for May with the cows producing 24.5 litres at 4.1 fat.

Protein has recovered strongly to average 3.65 over the last few tests. This gives us almost 2kg/ms per cow per day which is a peak we expect to improve on over the next few years.

The recent milk price cuts are very disheartening after a period of such difficult weather and huge extra costs.

Every farmer purchased extra feed this spring and now the emphasis is shifting to dealing with the bills.

The last number of months have tested the resolve of most farmers. We need to be conscious of our mental health as well as our physical health.

This has been a year of challenges and for many they are not over yet.

I find conversation or discussions at meal times very beneficial, and often that is the only time we slow down enough to talk things out loud as distinct from having them going around in our heads.

My approach is 'a problem shared is a problem halved' and more often than not solutions are found. I also believe that it can be beneficial to reflect on the positives such as our health, which hopefully is good, our families, which are a great source of joy to all of us, and our work, which we chose as a career because we enjoy it.

Many of the challenges are often temporary in nature and with hard work and a bit of luck they will hopefully soon fade into the background.

Building for the new parlour is keeping me extremely busy, but our plans have had a smooth passage through the planning process.

The only query was on slurry capacity, which we were covered on thanks to the lagoon.

We hope to start pouring concrete next week which will be welcome because up to now we have been clearing, digging and breaking.

We will do the development in two stages. The first is the tanks the parlour, collecting yard etc.

Then when we have the parlour up and running we will knock the existing parlour and dairy. On this site then we intend to build the new cubicle shed, as well as some indoor calving boxes, as it ties in well with the silage pit and existing yard.

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

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