Gerard Sherlock: Chlorine-free dairying is the way forward
It's hard to believe that the longest day of the year has passed by and we are still waiting on our summer to arrive. The heavy steady rain for almost two days at the beginning of June was a worry at the time but thankfully it dried up again quickly. Granted, it has been a showery June but ground conditions have held up. I believe we are still benefiting from the dry months of last year.
On June 14, I completed my herd TB test which was clear and this obviously came as a big relief. The next test is due in about six months' time.
Thankfully, the incidence of TB breakouts in Co Monaghan has reduced from last year which is welcome. While the weanlings were housed for testing, I dosed them all for worms with the oral drench Endospec.
I also gave them an injection of copper as some of their hair coats have a rusty colour. Some of the beef weanling heifers have 'angleberries' on them which doesn't help their appearance.
The vet advised me to pull one off each animal. This will expose it and the animal should build up immunity to them. I will have to wait and see.
Even through the heavy rains and cool temperatures of June, grass growths remained high with some paddocks growing well over 100kg some days.
Last week, the farm cover was at 802kg, with a cover/LU of 147kg and cows are being grazed at 5.44Lu/ha. The 90 milking cows are currently producing 26.72 litres at 3.78pcBF, 3.43pcPR giving 1.99kg MS/cow/day, TBC 6,000, SCC 151, Therm. 100, Lactose 4.92pc.
The cows are getting 14kg grass and 4kg of a 16pc nut/beet pulp mix. I am entering covers of around 1,500kg this week. I am back spreading 18-6-12 at about 27 units per acre.
A paddock was taken out for bales last week. I haven't done any topping yet as there is a bearing broken on the topper.
If there are any stemmy paddocks, I will bale them. Four acres of aftergrass was brought into the milking platform. Second cut silage seems to be growing well. It was all closed in early June. I expect it should be ready for cutting in mid July.
I am continuing to serve the cows with AI beef bulls. I finished Friesian AI on June 13. All cows have been served but there have been a lot of repeats. I am scanning the herd this week.
My teaser bull suffered from 'sunburn' or photosensitivity around the time of the herd test. He became very sick and was off form and food for about five days.
He improved eventually, but he won't be back with the cows. I put my other teaser bull with the chin ball into the cows.
The new variable speed vacuum pump, motor and milk pump were all installed last week in the milking machine.
They were grant approved by SEAI. I changed from a double diaphragm milk pump which will take a little getting used to. The other big change is the varying noise level from the vacuum pump throughout milking time. I had to record my electric usage for one week prior to installation and for one week after. I am hoping to see a reduced usage.
Coincidently, it was installed during the week of the announcement of the Climate Change Plan for Ireland. I believe I have started to address climate change on my dairy farm.
During June, I hosted a group of beef farmers as a KT event to discuss grass measuring. Grass measuring is not widely used by beef farmers.
I tried to explain the advantages and benefits of it and maybe some will use it in the future. We all did agree on the importance of correct soil fertility, especially lime, and even this will allow more grass to be grown.
I attended the NDC event held on June 12 on the McKenna farm in Emyvale as winners of the 2018 national milk quality awards. It is always good to visit a well-managed farm from every aspect of farming - grass, buildings and farm layout. One point highlighted from the morning seminar was the wastage on our farms, be it silage, water, medicines or whatever.
Going forward, all farmers will have to be more responsible and reduce the amount of wastage. There was a good discussion on the new chlorine-free cleaning products that we should be using in our dairies given our dependence on the sale of milk products such as infant formula.
For the future, chlorine usage levels will be minimal. For me it was a timely wake-up call to check the chlorine level in the detergents I am using.
Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan
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