We managed to tick almost all the boxes for Bord Bia audit

The milking parlour was powerwashed. File photo
The milking parlour was powerwashed. File photo
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Even though we are right in the middle of winter, it is still a busy enough time with plenty happening.

The last of the cattle were housed on December 1. Due to lack of housing I sold 10 weanling bulls in the mart. They were Angus and Hereford Crosses and were April and May born.

At the time of sale they had an average weight of 216kg and an average price of €2.25/kg. Their daily liveweight gain was approximately 1kg/day. I was happy enough with their performance.

I had to treat one of the weanling Hereford bulls for pneumonia when it came in from the field. It was in a pretty bad way. The vet treated him and he is improving slowly.

I took four dung samples to the vet for testing for fluke and worms. The samples represented groups of animals - weanling heifers, in-calf heifers, young cows, first and second lactations and older cows. I am awaiting the results to determine what dosing programme to follow. I have already done all the animals twice for lice with ectospec pour-on. Tails and backs were clipped at the same time.

About 30 cows have been dried off at this stage with Cepravin dry cow tubes. The remaining 40 milking cows are presently producing 14litres at 4.39pc butterfat, 3.55pc protein giving 1.1kg MS/cow/day, TBC 16000, SCC 195, Therm 100 and Lactose 4.71pc. Cows are getting 4kgs of a 18pc protein nut.

I am looking at the dry cows' diet now as I am introducing some meals to slow down silage intakes.

A dry cow mineral is also being sprinkled on the silage. The Friesian weanling heifers will be getting about 2-3kgs of the 18pc dairy nut depending on weights.

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Most of the in-calf heifers are fine on silage alone. A few of the younger ones will get 2kgs of the dairy nuts.

I lost an in-calf heifer that got injured last month. She was brought in from the field and put in with other animals. The following morning she couldn't rise. I treated her for pain and lifted her for about a week but she made no progress.

Bord Bia audit

The Bord Bia audit has come and gone for the third inspection. I did make a big effort to have everything as correct as I could. I got some help with the powerwashing of the milking parlour as I have a high roof with no loft. It makes such a difference especially with brightness after the powerwashing.

The glass recording jars got a good scrub with brillo pads and they were left gleaming. I replaced a light in the parlour pit which had a cracked cover. Even though my parlour is 22 years old, it scrubbed up very well. On the paperwork front, everything was good. Medicines and doses were all recorded along with all stock movements.

All lost tags were also replaced. I scored highly on both the beef and dairy audits. Three minor faults were noted for the future. I haven't got my tractor sprayer calibrated, there was a little bit of rust showing on the bottom of the meal hoppers in the parlour and the roof of the parlour isn't easily washed. I want to stress they were very minor issues and I couldn't have avoided them. It's good to be informed of them so I can have these corrected for the next audit.

December is my farm insurance renewal month. I spent a while last week trying to bargain a bit. It's good to talk through the policy to make sure everything is covered. I managed to keep the renewal fee almost the same as last year even though insurance rates have risen.

I was also glad to benefit from the IFA membership voucher and from being a member of my buyers' group special discount rate. The recent first KT payment of €750 for being a member of the discussion group was also welcome.

There were a lot of issues with this programme over the year, but thankfully it has got to the payment stage and we are well into year two of the programme.

A quick look back on 2017 the year also brings to mind the welcome increase in milk price. In the last month many of us reached 40c/l, albeit for smaller volumes. I hope this can continue for as long as possible in 2018.

Weather was a big challenge with a good first six months and a wet last six months. Grass growth was steady throughout the nine months. I milked a lot of cows this year, the highest number yet, but whether it was profitable remains to be seen.

I am looking forward to Christmas, to enjoy time with family and to do things I wouldn't normally do like visiting or reading.

As I have said before, all dairy farmers should check feed stocks and other key items in advance so that there's not a panic on Christmas Eve looking for essentials.

Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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