We have been given the all clear after a six-month TB lockdown
On February 22, my farm became TB free again as two clear tests were achieved. The herd was 'locked up' for just over six months. I was lucky in that there were only two reactors and no further reactors showed up. Thankfully, the incidence of TB seems to be reducing with little or no new cases locally. It's a challenge that nearly every farmer has to face at some stage.
With the TB restriction lifted, I can once again sell animals. There are some Friesian bull calves that need moving but unfortunately demand is not good. Prices as low as €40-€50 are being quoted, and even at that, getting them off the farm is slow. Some of my Friesian bulls are six weeks old and are well reared. It's a pity to let them go at those kinds of prices.
Calving has been busy for the last four weeks. There are over 50 cows and heifers calved so far. Thankfully, there were little or no problems. I had one cow with twins and I had one cow that held the cleanings. I did notice a few heifers with some discharge, even though they had no problems calving. I am taking a note of them to wash them out. There are a few calves taking a milk scour at the minute but it is manageable with a few lectades and synulox tablets. It just takes a bit extra time and some TLC.
This winter and spring just seems to be getting better and better. I attended a farm walk last week and only that the hedges are still bare, it was like a summer's day. The cows went out to grass on February 15 for a few days, but came back in during the wet days. They were out again on February 22 and have remained out since. Conditions were just perfect last week.
Last Monday, I hosted the opening Teagasc Grass10 course for Co Monaghan. This course, which will run for two years, aims to improve the confidence of farmers to measure grass and to make decisions accordingly. The group that attended were from dairy, beef and contract-rearing backgrounds. Participants' goals are to utilise 10 ton of grass DM/year with 10 or more grazings in each paddock.
My own farm cover sits at 994kgDM/ha. The cover/LU at the moment is 271. I completed my spring rotation planner beginning on February 15 and ending on April 12. By the end of this week, I should have 23pc of the milking platform grazed, according to the plan, and I reckon I will have achieved this. Last week, I grazed off a heavy cover of 1,600. It was the reseeded paddock from last year. All of the cows' paddocks have got 30 units of urea and another 30 units will be going out shortly.
The milking cows are producing 22l at 4.30pc butter fat, 3.37pc protein giving 1.7kg MS/cow/day, TBC 8,000, SCC 93, Therm 100. The cows are getting 7kg of grass, 5kg of a 18pc protein nut and 4kg of silage. I got my first cut silage tested and the results were 33pc Dry Matter, pH 4.01, Protein 13.3pc, ME 10.4MJ/kg DM, DMD 68.4, NDF 55. Again, like my second cut, I was expecting a higher DMD value, but then considering the NDF value or the amount of stem in the silage, the DMD value is about right. At the farm walk last week, one of the topics was 'preparing silage crops' and one strong point being made is that we are not cutting our silage early enough. It's the age-old argument of balancing quality with quantity. If silage is mowed early, the quality will be there and animals won't have to eat as much of it. Again, regrowths will come back quicker for second cuts.
In my own preparation for silage, slurry has been applied to all of the silage fields. Slurry went out on 30 acres on February 15 using the umbilical system at a rate of about 3,000 gals/acre. This ground was bare enough. More slurry went out on Februray 26 using the injector system as there was some grass on these fields.
It's a busy spring this year. I was glad to see the arrival yesterday of a Ballyhaise College student for an eight-week placement. As the saying goes, "a lot done and a lot more to do".
Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan
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