Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

We have built up some positive momentum bar the late calvers

Agri contractor John Dan O'Hare and his wife Bernie from Co Down and Massey Ferguson enthusiasts Myles O'Reilly and his wife Delia, from Drumcar, Co Louth are pictured with some of the Shalvey family on the set of RTÉ's Big Week on the Farm.
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

Recent wins for the Galway hurlers and footballers have set my week off to a good start and we have maintained the positive momentum since.

The cows are now on a full grass diet plus 2kgs of concentrate. They are producing 23.8 litres and while milk solids are fluctuating a bit we are averaging 4.51pc fat and 3.47pc protein over the last five tests. This equates to 1.96kgs of milk solids daily.

A disappointing but annual re occurrence is that 5pc of the herd are still to calve. We had excellent early compact calving but still we have a tail on the calving.

We had a good run of beef calves and there was great demand for them. This was welcome as the sheds were cleared quickly and at a good price. The late calves being born now are off our crossbred stock bulls and they are popping out. This is important at the end of calving as it gives the cow a great chance to come back into heat quickly and also allows us to focus on jobs other than calving.

Our first rotation was to finish on April 7 but we mixed second rotation grass in by night and stretched the first rotation to April 10. I prefer to do this if possible so that the cows have a solid bite by day and then lower dry matter second rotation by night.

The average farm cover is 431kg/dm/ha or 130kgs per cow which is very tight, but we are approaching 'Magic Day'.

Covers are a bit low on the second rotation with our highest cover at 1,000kg/dm/ha. This was partially due to the wet weather around St Patrick's weekend in particular, but was added to by my failure to get the required 70 units of nitrogen out by the end of March.

While we have over 80 units out now, we missed some of the potential for early spring grass growth. We are into the time of year when grass always takes off with the lift in temperature - as the nitrogen and moisture are already in the soil.

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One note of caution, over the last two days two of my neighbours rang to say they had cows with grass tetany so we need to be vigilant.

We are heading into a very important few weeks now to set ourselves up for the breeding season. We will vaccinate the cows for lepto this week and condition score the whole herd as they are going through the crush.

Any light cows will be put on once-a-day milking until they are bred. We had Colm our vet out twice to date to check out about 15 cows so far. We had a great spring calving with just two retained afterbirths and no milk fever to-date from over 270 calvings.

All cows will be tail painted now also to identify non cyclers. We will give a mineral dose to any cow under pressure and then get Colm back in the first week of May to treat non cyclers. Our target is to start AI on the cows and heifers on May 3 as we have done every year since 2001.

We let out 76 of this year's calves on March 24 in two groups of 38. They are fed on the 40-teat mobile feeder behind the quad. The excitement as they run wild having been set free from the pens is incredible to watch. For that first while it is like they are in training for the Galway Hurdle as they reach high speeds exploring their boundaries sometimes bouncing off the stone walls.

Even though all appeared calm when we left the field three were missing next day and the neighbourhood watch was required to locate them.

The calves outdoors are thriving on 450 grams of milk powder, along with about 300 grams of calf muesli and grass.

This has literally taken all the pressure off the calf sheds overnight and massively reduced the workload.

My preference is to put them on the silage fields away from the milking platform as they have a big run and have no effect on the silage until at least the middle of May.

The replacement heifers are now finishing grazing the silage ground. The target is to have all the silage ground closed and fertilised by April 20.

The area closed will get 90 units of nitrogen per acre including a bag of urea. It will also include 2.5 bags of 18/6/12 + S and one bag of 50pc K as we are still showing index 2 on most of our silage field soil tests.

There is some slurry in the tanks on the out-farm, so I booked the contractor with the trailing shoe for this weekend and it will all go out on the silage ground.

Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway, along with their son, Enda, and neighbour and out-farm owner John Moran

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