We are having a wonderful run of weather which gave us excellent growth and ground conditions for the past month.
This has allowed us to concentrate on our everyday farming tasks and even get ahead on a few jobs such as reseeding. The last cow calved on April 9 and meant all our 2020 dairy heifers were at grass by mid-April.
In June 2019 we switched to beef AI for the last five weeks and found there was no difficulty getting buyers for the calves this spring. This meant our calf sheds were empty and silent for the first time ever at the end of April.
My son Enda tail-painted all the herd red on April 11. At the end of each week he painted the cows that had come into heat green, and after 21 days any cows still red were presented to our vet for scanning.
The outcome was that about 10pc had not cycled. Some of them were less than 35 days calved so he washed out a few, gave prostaglandin to a few and put CIDRs into seven.
This year we are using some sexed semen. We will use most of it on the heifers in the first 10 days of AI. We will use prostaglandin on day seven, hopefully get a good take and then let the stock bulls run with the heifers from day 11 once AI is complete. The main reason we are using sexed semen is to reduce the number of male dairy calves, but it was not as big a problem as expected this year - possibly because the media focused all their interest on Covid-19.
Breeding started with the cows on May 3. The plan is to breed dairy AI for only three weeks and only to cows with an EBI of 120 or higher.
In practical terms, this means 20pc of the herd will get a beef straw in the first three weeks, and after that every cow gets beef AI for the final seven weeks of the breeding season.
Grass is growing very well, with good clean-out and contented cows. We have spread 105 units of N and nine units of S per acre. AFC is 801 or 191 per cow. We took out two paddocks for bales on May 5 and expect to take out two more today.
Growth rates are over 80kgs/ha/day this week, with demand of 63kgs/ha/day comfortably allowing us to also take out two paddocks (6pc of the MP) for reseeding. We have decided to sow a 100pc tetraploid mix of Abergain and Aston energy, with 1kg of clover included to comply with the new Nitrates Directive requirements.
We will sow at 15kg per acre and use a clover-friendly, undersown spray post emergence.
The herd is producing 24 litres at 4.38pc fat, 3.66pc pro which is 2kg, MS on two kgs of a 14pc ration.
The cows have produced 117kg milk solids and consumed 225kg of concentrates up to May.
Our discussion group had our second remote farm walk on Zoom last week.
While not a replacement for a farm walk, it was a definite help to us as we focused on key targets as we began the breeding season.
Average protein across the group on May 1 was an impressive 3.63pc, which also indicates cows are being well fed. The priority now is to submit over 90pc of the herd in the first three weeks and to ensure they are in good order on a rising plane of nutrition.