Meadows were cut and saved in four days but a silage shortage still likely

Robin Talbot

A couple of winters ago we recorded a temperature of -20C. A couple of days this past fortnight the same thermometer recorded temperatures above 33C. Who would have thought that you could have a variation of over 50C in this country?

The land is really drying out with lots of burnt patches showing up in most fields and they are getting bigger by the day. Grass is starting to get very tight but stock are happy and contented.

Touch wood, we are blessed with a really good water supply. A good few years ago we upgraded our field supply. We put inch-and-a-quarter pipe to take the water to a central point down the fields and then dispersed it around to the troughs with an inch pipe. So all stock at the moment have plenty of water.

Like most people who tried, we succeeded in saving excellent hay this year. Most of it was cut and baled in four days, something we would never have done before and only heard about on the Continent. But the most pleasantly surprising part of it is that meadows were extremely heavy.

We have cut some of our second cut silage and it also returned pleasing yields in that it was actually heavier than the first cut.

Despite this, we are still a long way short of securing enough winter feed. And I'm not holding out too much hope for the main second cut silage which is wilting in the field instead of growing.

I know things can change quickly but, in my opinion, this weather looks very settled. I have to be honest and say that I would welcome a shower of rain but we had enough of that for long enough and I can live quite happily with the sunshine ... for now.

One field of spring barley that was doing well all year and is in cooler land is looking very promising at this stage.

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Some of the other spring barley sowed on lighter land seems to be showing the effects of drought, with large white patches starting to appear in the fields. But there's nothing we can do about that at this stage, just hope for the best.

I decided to reseed a field that was reseeded two years ago and got so badly poached last summer that a lot of the new grasses were gone and weeds were starting to cover the ground.

So we did that a few weeks ago and the new grass seed subsequently emerged but the strong sun of the last few weeks has burnt off the grass and the field is brown again.

I wonder if the grass seed is dead and whether we will have to re-seed again. If so, it would give a whole new meaning to three-in-a-row.

Our heifers have started to calve. Although they are born out in the field we are bringing them inside for a few days as I would have a real concern about young calves getting heatstroke.

Usually we let the cows closest to calving into the shed for hay at night but at the moment they are being fed in the field. I don't think they'd thank me for putting them into a hot shed.

We got a right scare with the cows a few weeks ago when, over the space of two days, I found three aborted calves in the field.

Blood tests on the cows subsequently showed up Neospora infection. Like most people nowadays when something shows up in the herd that you haven't had before, you head to Google for information. And the first words that jumped out at me off the page were 'abortion storm.'

It appears you can have embryonic death as well, so we went through every cow and picked out a few of them that weren't obviously heavy in calf and we scanned those cows last week.


Thankfully they were all still in-calf so fingers crossed.

We haven't vaccinated any of the cows for rota-virus at this stage, partly because the vaccine seems to be very hard to get.

The weanling bulls are on new grass at the moment and appear to be thriving well. They have a few weeks of new grass left when they will be just coming a year old. At that stage we will weigh them.

Considering our chronic shortage of silage, my plan would be to try to fatten any of them that are heavy enough within sixteen months and have them gone by Christmas.

If we do that it means that they need to be into the shed by September 1.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois. Email:

Irish Independent

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