Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Get correct fertiliser out on silage ground before it is too late

The silage ground that got slurry is also doing well.
The silage ground that got slurry is also doing well.
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

While Wet, Wet, Wet's comeback gig finished in Dublin last Christmas, the environmental version of wet, wet, wet is still pretty evident around these parts at the moment.

Grazing has been difficult over the past month with the milking cows only out 18 days in total since they first started grazing on March 13. The farm dry-matter cover measured last week was 586kg/ha.

There are some paddocks with good covers but are just very wet. I know when conditions come good that grass will take off as soil temperatures seem good. Paddocks that got nitrogen on March 14 have responded well. It's just a pity I didn't do more of them. The silage ground that got the slurry is also doing very well. I didn't get the other block of silage ground slurried and at this stage it is too late.

Slurry certainly worked well this year as any field that got it is very green and healthy looking. I am hoping that, by the time this is being read, I will have sown the fertiliser on all the silage ground.

Teagasc have prepared a fertiliser plan for me this year. I got the last remaining fields soil-sampled, so I now have all my land, both owned and rented, sampled over the last three years.

We took 16 samples representing 55.1ha. More than half of the land is at Index 1 or 2 for phosphorus. For potassium levels, even more – 58pc – of my ground is at Index 1 or 2.

The plan is very specific as it recommends what type of fertiliser is required in the low index blocks. The fertiliser requirement for me this year is 5t of 27-2.5-5, 34t of CAN, 2t of 16pc Super Phosphate and 1t of muriate of potash, which is 50pc potasium. Lime is also required since almost 90pc of the farm is under the target pH of 6.2. The total requirement is 179t of lime. I spread 65t of this in 2013.

I cannot grow grass to the maximum if lime and P&K levels are not correct so getting these levels up is a priority for 2014, even if it looks like compound fertilisers are increasing in price.

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AI has begun. The teaser bull went into the heifers and was going well until he got a knock. Now he's lame and not active. I will let him recover for a while in the hope that he returns to full vigour.

I suppose this type of scenario is always a risk when you are trying to get heifers served indoors. I let out 13 served heifers to grass last Wednesday. I will watch the remaining 10 and hopefully will get them within this three-week cycle. Cows are also being served, with all of them showing good strong heats.

There are 60 cows milking at the moment. They are producing 27.5l at 3.7pc butterfat and 3.13pc protein. This equates to a daily output of 1.93kg of milk solids per cow. The SCC is good at 142,000, and the TBC is at 7,000. Their diet is grass by day, along with silage, fodder beet, straw and meal.

I had some health problems with cows over the past month which resulted in one cow dying. She had a displaced abomasums and, even though she was operated on, she was just too far gone.

I also had a couple of cows with heart problems which the vet said was unusual. They are recovering but they did lose some condition and dropped in milk. A lot of times when you see a cow off form after calving you put it down to the change of diet or an infection from calving. Spotting the difference between these and more serious health problems is the challenge.

Other than that, calvings are going well, but with the Friesian male calves still in the majority. At this stage they are being sold more easily than in earlier months at an average price of €60. Cull cows sold recently made an average weight of 613kg and an average price of €754. I had a Hereford heifer born last May, but did not do as well as a calf. She weighed just 245kg and made €520.

Apart from getting fertiliser out on silage ground, the other priority is to get a few trees that came down during the winter winds tidied up. I'm not a big believer in rolling ground apart from two runs around ditches for fear of stones. Ground is in good shape this year as it got no poaching last autumn.

I see the SFP envelope has arrived, but I haven't opened it yet. At our last discussion group meeting we were told about some of the changes about entitlements.

I believe it is best to get those who know best to advise and fill out the forms as these changes are in place until 2019. I am looking forward to a pleasant weekend this Easter. I hope you have one too.

  • Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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