Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

Profit monitors provide a valuable benchmark

Gerard Sherlock will be opening up the first cut silage pit this week
Gerard Sherlock will be opening up the first cut silage pit this week
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Christmas 2016 was quiet and pleasant. The weather was good to the point that around Christmas it was so mild that one would feel like working in the fields! The farm ticked over nicely with nothing major to report.

A couple of days before Christmas a cow came in for milking minus a teat.

Another cow must have stood on it while she was lying in the cubicle. I can't see it recovering as the teat is shattered.

I did settle down to do the Teagasc Profit Monitor or as somebody called it, 'the Loss Monitor', shortly after Christmas.

I had the added task of completing two of them - 2015 and 2016. They were completed by the deadline of last weekend.

It is considered a fair achievement for many dairy farmers in discussion groups to have them completed in early January.

Next week our group will meet and analyse each other's results and hopefully each member will go away with scope for improvement and costs to reduce.

Looking at my own milk price for 2016, I was surprised that it wasn't down more compared with 2015.

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It was 2.31c/l down on the 2015 average milk price. In 2016 for me, milk price dropped to 23.06/l and rose again to 32.49c/l in December. This is a difference of almost 10c. This shows the volatility we are dealing with.

I would encourage more dairy farmers to complete the profit monitor.

They are critical for benchmarking your enterprise with similar dairy farmers. The technology is out there to help you complete one. Gone are the days of the pen, paper and calculator; but if it helps you do your first one, use the old methods.

First cut silage

I will be opening up the first cut silage pit this week. The first cut silage results were dry matter of 28pc, crude protein of 13pc, DMD of 69, ME of 10.4 and pH of 4.1.

For the last month I have been feeding a 15pc beef nut of barley, wheat, wheat gluten, wheat distillers, and soya bean hulls to all dry cows and in-calf heifers at a rate of 2-3kg. They seem to be doing well on it. The second cut silage was also good

I have to make sure that nothing gets over-fat. Dry cow minerals at a rate of 150g/head is scattered over the nuts.

I feed these nuts at evening milking time to avoid the crows rummaging through the silage all day. The weanling heifers are getting 2kg of the 18pc dairy nut.

Currently our 47 cows are producing 12 litres at 4.13pc BF, 3.19pc PR, giving 0.90kg MS/cow/day, TBC 9000, SCC 160, Therm. 100.

As I write nothing has calved yet but there are heifers coming close.

A lot more cows will be dried off this week and next. In early December I had to get the vet to treat two cows. One cow had a very large abscess on her jaw.

The vet drained some of it off and put her on Betamox antibiotic. The swelling has gone down a bit. She is thriving ok.

With the other cow I had noticed for a while that she was losing weight and empty. I thought it was as a result of her being a first calver and having twins.

She was dosed with various drugs. The vet examined her for a long time and eventually discovered that she had two very sharp back teeth which he reckoned was not allowing her chew her cud properly.

The offending teeth were removed and I must say it has helped because she is putting on flesh. I am feeding her extra nuts separate to the rest.

Meanwhile, I discovered that my medicine cabinet had come away from the wall.

Luckily nothing was broken or had spilled.

I went to buy a new one and I must say there isn't a big choice out there.

It's hard to find one suitable enough to hold the five litre dosing containers. I purchased the JFC type and hopefully it should be around for many years to come.

I do admit I am not the best of a reader of books. One book I did get over Christmas was A Touch of Grass.

This interesting and colourful book of 457 pages written by Tyrone dairy farmer Alan Kyle tells the farming life story of the Kyle family. The book is based on extracts from Alan's diaries which he kept from the age of 15.

One of the diary entries I could relate to and remember was the weather in 1985-86 where cows were housed for 12 months.

Following Alan's example could be a New Year's resolution for someone. It takes time and effort to keep a farm diary. One is kept in our household and who knows who might read it in years to come.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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