Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Make preparations now to be certain you can put the feet up for Christmas


Feet warming by fireplace
Feet warming by fireplace
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

As the world prepares to celebrate Christmas next week, farmers should also pause for a moment too. I know cows still have to be milked and animals fed, but I think if you start planning today to get organised, you will succeed in having a relaxing time with your family next week.

Things like checking all feed and detergent supplies so that there is enough to carry through into the new year, making sure the tractors are full of diesel, having the covers on the pit rolled back enough to do at least a week, and finally, be prepared for frost if it arrives.

Frost and snow are the last thing on our minds with temperatures above 12C last week.

But the mild weather has allowed me to get a lot of little jobs completed. Ground conditions were good enough to get 38t of lime spread on 15ac of cow paddocks at the end of November.

My lime requirement for this year was 110t according to soil test results. I have spread almost 80t of this. Some of the remaining paddocks only require about half a tonne which is very small. I will soil sample any remaining paddocks in January which will leave all owned and rented land sampled.

I brought 24 of the weanling heifers indoors on December 3. There are still five outdoors. If the weather changes for the worse they will come in. The 24 were weighed and had an average weight of 293kg varying from 235-370kg.


Teagasc recommend an average weight of 282kg for February born calves in mid-December. My lightest heifers were April-born. I separated five lighter ones into a pen and they will get extra meal up to 3kg per day of a 20pc heifer nut. The average liveweight gain from birth was 0.83kg/day.

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The dosing programme is going well. All dry cows and in-calf heifers have been dosed with Tramazole. Weanlings will get Levafas Diamond this week along with their second dose of Ectospec for lice.

All animals have received two doses of Ectospec two weeks apart.

The milking cows have settled in well on the second cut silage and straw which they started on November 21. The 35 cows currently milking are producing 12l at 4.14pc fat and 3.23pc protein, giving 0.9kg of milk solids per cow per day. My SCC is at 236,000. They are getting 4kgs of a dairy high -energy nut with 18pc protein.

I went to the Teagasc dairy conference in Cavan last month.

There was a good balance of information on new technology, grass growing studies and milk markets.

One of the points I took home was from US speaker Matt Lucy who said their heifer calves are now being genomic tested at birth and if they haven't the potential, they are culled.

"There is no point in rearing heifer calves that haven't the potential to be fertile," he said.

Determined that there was no place on a dairy farm for a non-productive animal, I advertised my culls on Done Deal the following day and had nine sold within 24 hours.

My annual insurance policy for the farm was due for renewal last week. It had increased in price despite my best negotiating efforts.


The fact that I had a claim during the year didn't help my case. There aren't enough companies providing farm insurance in this country so it leaves it less competitive.

I have booked a milking machine service for before Christmas. All tractors have been fully serviced and checked for anti-freeze.

The disc-mower and fertiliser sower have been power-washed and given a good coating of oil.

Last month the discussion group held our meeting indoors. We examined in great detail our milk performance management reports that we get from ICBF which contains an awful lot of information.

We reviewed the past 12 months and planned some of our meetings for 2014.

One of the first will be devoted to our health and well-being. This is a very sensitive subject and it is so important for all farmers to talk about it.

As 2013 draws to a close the profit monitor will reflect the type of year we had. Farming is a great way of life but it is hard work all year round, but I believe the good overshadows the tough times.

The boxes of new tags came through the door today and reminded me of what lies ahead in early January.

There's no doubt that 2014 will be another challenging year, with super-levies, the threat of a milk price drop and pressures to expand.

For the next couple of weeks I hope to relax and enjoy Christmas. I hope you all do too.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan. Email:

Irish Independent