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Peter Hynes: Adding sulphur to the fertiliser mix can deliver big results on silage dry matter yields

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Ploughing on: Peter and Paula Hynes on their farm in Aherla, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh

Ploughing on: Peter and Paula Hynes on their farm in Aherla, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh

First cut: Damien McGrath takes a break over a silage bail. Contractors Willie and Barry Cunningham worked on the first cut at Damien's farm near Togher, County Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

First cut: Damien McGrath takes a break over a silage bail. Contractors Willie and Barry Cunningham worked on the first cut at Damien's farm near Togher, County Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

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Ploughing on: Peter and Paula Hynes on their farm in Aherla, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh

We have enjoyed three weeks of glorious sunshine with rain on the Sundays - perfect grass growing conditions.

All our silage ground was closed in early April and our contractor spread 3,000 gallons of slurry to the acre on all that ground.

And spreading 15 units of sulphur per acre can really boost dry matter yields on silage crops. We have 100 acres of first-cut silage, which will allow us plenty of scope on how much we close for second cut.

Surplus paddocks will be removed from the grazing platform in bales to ensure we keep quality grass in front of the cows as the season progresses.

We have been feeding 14pc dairy ration all spring and we are looking at dropping that to 12pc protein.

Reducing protein levels in dairy ration is another tool for reducing farm emissions. Cows have really performed well, with current protein at 3.50pc and fat holding at the 4.00pc mark.

The breeding season is upon us again. This year we are using seven genomic sires with a team average of €320 EBI.

We will use FR4728 and FR4760 again as we were really happy with their calves this spring.

We are also using four Gene Ireland beef bulls, two Hereford and two Simmental. Start date for AI is April 27 and all heifers have CIDR implants. Synchronisation works really well for us so all 40 heifers will be inseminated on the same day.

The heifers averaged 340kg so they are in perfect condition for breeding, having been out at grass since early March.

All our heifer calves have now been genotyped - it's a worthwhile investment that has seen many heifers' EBI increase. Some have jumped as much as €100 EBI.

They are all out at grass and will get 1kg nuts per head per day for the rest of the grazing season.

It makes herding so much easier and average daily gains in the first 12 months are the most economical to achieve.

Most of our beef calves have been sold. We took a group of Friesian bulls to Macroom Mart last Tuesday. A group of Hereford calves went to Corrin Mart on Friday.

The Hereford calves were all by Gene Ireland sires so they were sold on to a contract rearer, from where they will progress to the test centre in Tully.

They were collected from our yard with no transport cost but what was really simple was entering the calves for Corrin Mart via the ICBF app.

I'm convinced the coronavirus will change the shape of how we do business, and the way marts are operating now could easily be the future.

Likewise, farmers are linking up more on Zoom as people are working from home on remote access.

Technology will finally save us from running around trying to make meetings when we can easily attend from the comfort of the kitchen table.

We recently did a piece with Fran McNulty for RTé news. Some filming in the parlour with the mobile phone and a quick Zoom call combined with some careful editing by Fran resulted in a news report.

Milk reduction scheme

As we near peak milk production, milk price is the big concern for all of us.

2020 had been shaping up to be a fantastic year for dairy, with all the signs pointing to positive markets, but we are powerless as a global pandemic take that away from us.

Processors have made a fantastic effort to process all milk to date.

When we look across at what has unfolded in the UK, where milk is being dumped and farm returns are in freefall, it highlights the importance of being part of the EU.

I am led to believe a milk reduction scheme will be implemented here. UK farmers don't have that safety net as DEFRA don't seem keen on financially supporting dairy farmers.

If there was a positive to be taken from this pandemic, it is that there is a lot more focus on where food comes from and our food supply chains moving.

This is a golden opportunity for farmers to communicate with consumers.

It's time to take out the mobile phone and shine a great big spotlight on Irish agriculture.

We farmers should be walking, talking billboards for our industry - the important thing to remember is we must communicate, not agitate.

Peter Hynes farms with his wife Paula in Aherla, Co Cork

Indo Farming