Farm Ireland

Tuesday 22 January 2019

'We need rising temperatures soon to kickstart some growth'

Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

I began last month's column on the subject of snow and rain and unfortunately it is still a dominant topic of conversation four weeks later.

We really need rising temperatures to kickstart growth. Bad and all as it has been, so far it is just a long winter with a late spring. It not the case that we have missed any good weather yet so when the good weather does come, hopefully it will stay for the year.

As the clocks go forward this weekend we are all hoping for some good farming weather.

We didn't fare too badly here in Monaghan during Storm Emma and 'the Beast from the East'.

Even though there were 'red alerts', the cows kept on calving, they had to be milked and calves had to be fed.

In a way it was like preparing for Christmas Day again. I was putting in feed to do a few days, rolling back silage covers and stocking up on supplies.

I had two heaters working, one in the dairy for the milk tank and the other one in the milking machine plant room. Even though they were small in output they did keep the areas warmer and it was lovely to feel the heat when you opened the door. I had no problems with water and milk was collected as normal.

Not getting cows milked or not getting milk collected is no joke. Storm Emma showed us how vulnerable we are to the weather.

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I remember the snow and blizzards of 1982 when conditions were a lot worse but also there were less numbers of cows to be milked and mouths to be fed. Hopefully it will be another 36 years before we are talking about 'real' snow again.

Cows are continuing to calve, with 55 delivered. In the last month I had two caesareans carried out.

One was on a cow which had a dead calf, and the other on a heifer which had a great big Hereford bull calf alive.

The two cows have recovered well, although milk yield is low from them. The cows are currently producing 25 litres @ 4.38pc BF, 3.25pc PR, giving 1.95kg MS/cow/day, TBC 5000, SCC 127, Therm. 100, Lactose 4.67pc. Cows are getting 6kg of a 21pc protein nut. Some of the Hereford calves born from the heifers have been big enough and required assistance at calving and some needed no help.

Friesian bull calves have been selling well, although the weather has delayed shipping at times. I am selling at home any of the beef calves also. I sold three cull cows recently. There is good demand for them as I got €1.40/kg.

I weighed all of the weanlings recently. The group of Friesian heifers had an average weight of 300kg or a daily liveweight gain (DLWG) from birth of 0.7kg/day. The beef weanlings had a DLWG of 0.8kg/day from birth.


Some of the Friesian heifers would be off target and will have to be pushed hard between now and late April when they will be served.

I picked out an Angus bull weighing 435kg and a red Hereford bull weighing 350kg and got them vasectomised. All vaccines have been given now for Lepto, BVD and IBR.

I did a farm grass cover measurement last week. The farm cover is now at 672 kgDM/ha. In the past month grass has grown at 6kgDM/ha/day. Cows have not got out yet for any grazing which is disappointing. I don't believe anything is lost yet as there is such poor grass growth. When ground conditions and grass growth improve I will have sufficient cows to get through the first rotation quicker. I got some slurry out on some of the drier silage fields.

It relieved some of the tanks but slurry is building up again. Silage fields are bare this spring so I am not worried about delaying spreading on silage ground.

No fertiliser has been spread yet either.

Despite the long winter and late spring, the workload and everything else we can all look forward to Easter in less than two weeks. I may take a trip to Croke Park to see Monaghan play Dublin or have a night out watching the many local drama groups in action.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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