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Sunday 27 May 2018

Our Farm: We got the slurry out ahead of the return of sleet, snow and ice

Busy time: calving season
Busy time: calving season
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

In my last column I wrote about the mild and dry January we had. This weather continued for the first three weeks of February but the last couple of weeks have been difficult with just about everything thrown at us - wind, rain, sleet, snow and ice.

Thankfully the first three weeks of February were productive with fertiliser spread, slurry out and cows out.

On February 1, I spread 23 units of urea on 70pc of the cow grazing paddocks. A further 10pc got a covering of light slurry.

The remaining paddocks have got nothing yet. Last week the farm cover was 787. The daily growth for two weeks was just over 8.

Ground is very wet here now with a lot of surface water sitting on paddocks. The milking cows got out to grass on February 12. and remained out for 10 days. They were very content out. They haven't got back out since. According to the spring grass planner I should have 23pc of the farm grazed by the end of this week, whereas actually there is only 6pc grazed.

On St Valentine's Day instead of the smell of roses in the air it was the smell of slurry.

The contractor came in and spread slurry on all the silage ground using the pipe system. A lot of slurry was moved in the space of a few hours. Three slurry tankers kept the pipe going comfortably.

It's the earliest I have spread slurry in a long number of years. It should give silage ground a good early kick-start.

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The soil sample results came back. I was very happy with soil pH results as five out of six results averaged 6.7. Teagasc recommend around 6.3. Five years ago they were at 6 or below it. One field is at 5.6 which hasn't been reseeded in a long time. The spreading of lime in recent years is showing.

Soil indexes for P are at 3 and have remained the same or improved slightly, while the K indexes have dropped from 3 to 2 or even 1 in some fields. I will have to continue using compound fertilisers to not let indexes drop any further.

I made the decision to vaccinate all the cows and in-calf heifers for IBR. It's not the most expensive of vaccines. I was advised that one shot would be sufficient now and to repeat again in six months.

All young stock received their first lepto and BVD vaccines shot and are due their second shot this week.

Calving is continuing steadily. I had my third set of twins last week. Their mothers were Friesian heifers. One sixth calver and didn't clean after calving. She also had mastitis within a couple of days of calving.

Calving pens were cleaned out, washed out and disinfected recently. Thankfully all calves are thriving well. I dehorned the first group of calves last week.

Friesian bull calves are moving well, making around €80. I got a request to genotype a Friesian bull calf, which I did and am now awaiting the results. The calf has an EBI of €204 and is out of the bull Kildarro Maestro FR2053.

At our last discussion group meeting one of the topics discussed was selecting the team of bulls for the coming season. Improving solids and fertility were the two main criteria. I am using the ICBF sire advice. I haven't fully completed my selection as some are not freely available.

A student from Ballyhaise College began his 12-week placement here in early February. He is from a beef farm so everything is fairly new to him coming to a dairy farm. So far so good.

Finally, I would like to mention Aidan McCabe's retirement from LacPatrick Co-op last week. Aidan has been the farm liaison officer for the past 35 years, or in other words the farmers' first point of contact with the creamery.

Whenever a dairy farmer had a problem, Aidan would sort it out in his quiet efficient manner. Aidan will probably be best remembered for his hard work in managing milk quotas and the superlevy risk.

Thankfully the then Town of Monaghan Co-op escaped superlevy bills for many years by the skin of their teeth due to Aidan's prudent negotiating skills and gentle coaxing of dairy farmers to reduce their milk volumes.

His unique gift of persuasion and ability to work well with farmers made him a very welcome visitor to farms at all times. I along with many others in the dairy industry wish Aidan and his family an enjoyable future.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan


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