Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 April 2018

Our Farm: Testing the herd and fact-finding in Belgium

3D discussion group members Dermot Sherry and Gerard Sherlock from Monaghan Photo: Lorraine Teevan
3D discussion group members Dermot Sherry and Gerard Sherlock from Monaghan Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Today, November 1, is a significant date in the Irish calendar. Traditionally, it was known as All Hallows or Samhain. In the farming calendar the harvest was finished, and many animals were housed in those days coinciding with the finish of the traditional nine-month conacre system. Supposedly today is the first day of winter.

The last few weeks have been really pleasant to work in. Together, the dry weather and the autumnal colours of nature encourage us to appreciate farming as a way of life.

Thankfully, the herd test was completed and was clear, which was a big relief. Unfortunately, TB has raised its head again locally in recent months. It is one of those diseases that can cause a lot of stress for the farmer, especially at calving time as he is unable to sell excess calves.

The cows were housed by night on October 11. They are still grazing by day, and with the excellent grazing conditions cows are happy out. I did a grass cover last week and the farm cover is 580. It will probably finish up at 500 which is where I want to be closing up.

The first paddocks to be closed in early October have covers now of 600-800. They would have got watery slurry also.

Presently, the 65 cows are producing 14 litres @ 4.18pc BF, 3.66pc PR giving 1.18kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 199, Therm. 200, Lactose 4.72pc. I reckon cows are eating 8kgs of grass, 6kgs of silage and 3kgs of a high UFL 18pc nut. I will start to dry off this week.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan
Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

About half of the in-calf heifers were housed full-time on October 10. The rest will be housed this week. They will get their second salmonella vaccine shot this week.

The weanlings will be kept out as long as possible in small groups. They are getting 2kgs of concentrates.

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Last week, I moved 10 weanlings onto the re-seeding that was done on August 30. Over the eight weeks it grew to a cover of 800. It was lighter in some places and heavier in others.

I sowed 1.25bags of 18-6-12 in mid-October. I didn't spray it as it wasn't strong enough and there was very little weeds showing. It is dry enough and the light grazing now should benefit it.

Three weeks ago, following dosing, one of the Friesian heifers got very sick. The vet treated her and said it could be an infestation of worms in her and as they were dying she couldn't get rid of them quick enough. She probably would have died if she hadn't been checked and treated quickly.

Recently, I received the ANC and BPS payments. Thankfully, the query with the Department was sorted out quick enough. In mid-October I changed over my electricity supplier to Energia. It is recommended to change supplier annually to avail of maximum discounts. I used the website, which was helpful.

Last month, I visited Belgium for two days on a co-op study trip. We met with Belgium's largest co-op, Milcobel. We were looking at their co-operative structure. We visited a dairy farmer who had 120 cows with two robots.

Many of the farms in Belgium have a number of enterprises or 'pillars'. The one we visited had dairy, beef, wheat, onions and potatoes. When one drops in income the others can carry the farm through.

This farmer was self-sufficient in electricity. He had a digester using the methane from fresh slurry supplied each day.

Our visit also included a meeting with an Irish Commission official who gave us some information on the implications of Brexit and the threats that may lie ahead.

Last weekend, my neighbours and friends the Sherry family, received a national Bord Bia Origin Green award. This was a new awards scheme which recognised their efficiencies through sustainability and carbon footprint.

People are welcome to visit their farm tomorrow as Teagasc are hosting a liquid milk workshop on the farm.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

Next Up:  Drying off cows - Full-time housing of the bigger animals - Washing and oiling of the machinery for the winter

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