Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Profit monitor results leave me with no excuses for not knowing where I stand

Slurry and fertiliser spreading season is open in Monaghan
Slurry and fertiliser spreading season is open in Monaghan
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

The very mild weather in January has us already set up for the first day of spring and last week I walked the grazing block and measured grass covers.

Going on my measuring I have a farm cover of 679. My closing farm cover on November 10 was 576. Paddocks have on average grown grass at 2.5kg DM/ha/day since then.

Ground conditions are good enough, just a bit sticky after some rain.

If conditions remain as they are, although rain is forecast and more cows calve down, cows should see an earlier exit from the house this year.

There is definitely not as much grass cover on the silage ground so I will have to decide whether to graze it with weanlings or not.

Tomorrow also sees the opening of the slurry and fertiliser spreading season for us in Monaghan. I got the fertiliser sower checked over last week. Even though it a fairly new Amazone sower, she wasn't opening and closing properly. Some adjustment had to be made to the rams. There is fertiliser sitting in the shed from last year so everything is good to go.

Urea will be used first. I am getting some soil sampling done this week as it is five years since the last ones were done on the home farm. There is no urgency on slurry spreading yet as most tanks are not full. One of the smaller tanks is filling up but a few loads into another tank will relieve it.

Calving began about three weeks ago. There are about 15 calved. The majority are heifers. I had one heifer that calved a dead calf. She was slow to calve and when I did assist her, the calf was dead. It was a Friesian heifer.

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Of course I shouldn't complain as another heifer had a set of twins which were two Friesian heifers.

Calves are being fed at least four litres of biestings as soon as possible after calving. This year we made sure that the calved heifers had enough biestings to feed the calf after being milked. I have a supply built up in the freezer as well.

Two weeks ago I got the 2015 and 2016 Profit Monitor results for the farm. As I had predicted, overall net profit was down 25pc compared to 2015.

It all began at the top of the page as the gross output of the farm was down 11pc from 2015, with milk sales making up 8pc of this.

The variable costs did reduce by 10pc, with the feed bill down by 28pc. Fixed costs remained unchanged. The pages of figures and reports that the profit monitor produces leave no excuses for not knowing where I stand.

Acting on them is the bigger challenge. A few areas need to be addressed. The rearing of replacements is showing up as a loss due to the fact that too many replacements are being kept on the farm.

Replacements are being reared on leased land as well which adds greatly to the cost of rearing them. If there were fewer replacements on the farm I would have to focus more strongly on breeding the cows I have rather than using my replacements.

Milk solids are still not moving up at any steady pace. This is related to the type of cow, EBI and grass. In another exercise the estimated grass utilised on my whole farm for 2016 was 7.9t DM/ha. The top 20pc in the country are achieving more than 10t.

It is a proven fact that the net profit/ha is related to and driven by grass utilised per ha.

Ironically 2017 is designated as the Year of Sustainable Grassland with major emphasis on utilising more grass on dairy farms. Improving my milk solids will be one of my priorities for 2017.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet in Co Monaghan

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