Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

More questions than answers from an investigation into my cow empty rates

Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

2013 will be long remembered as a year of two extremes. The extremely long poor spring and the extremely long and terrific autumn.

We are now past mid-November and a lot of younger animals are still out in the fields. The cows came indoors full-time on November 3. They went indoors at night just 10 days before this. The cows were outdoors this year for 237 days. They first went out on February 21 until March 8, and were back out full-time from March 28.

I did a final grass measurement on November 11 and the average farm cover was at 413kgDM/ha. In-calf heifers were housed on November 8. The weanlings seem content as they have plenty of grass and are getting 2kg of a heifer developer nut daily.

I keep them in groups of eight or so to avoid poaching. They are dosed every three weeks. I had two weanling heifers that became lame. I treated them for foul in the foot. One came alright but the other one is still a bit lame. I suspect it got hurt from being on heat.

The cows are being fed round bales. I have finished the 83 bales of third cut and am eating other bales that are on the farm. The dung is thin from the cows, due to the third cut bales being leafy. There is a bale of straw with the cows as well.

I will open the second-cut pit in two weeks when these bales are eaten. Twenty cows were dried off last week. They were mainly first calvers and some thin cows and cows that were yielding 5l/day or less. Cepravin tubes were used. Four cows were treated with lactating tubes over two days. These cows showed some tests above 250,000 SCC during the year.

Fifty-four cows are currently milking producing 13l at 4.17pc butter fat, 3.46pc protein, TBC 7,000 and giving 1.0kg milk solids/cow/day. Milk proteins have dropped since they went indoors full-time having peaked at 3.72pc on October 18.

A final pregnancy scan was done on October 15. Twelve scanned not in-calf out of 74, or 16pc empty. Four of these I don't mind culling as they had problems.

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I have started to look at the cows to find out why they didn't go in calf and whether I could trace a pattern. There was a mix of first to fifth lactation cows. Five of them were the last cows to calve. The average EBI of the 12 cows is €57 compared to my herd average of €49.

The average fertility sub index of the 12 cows was €21 compared to my herd average of €16. The range of values in fertility sub index for these 12 goes from -€74 to +€82. They were as fertile as the rest of the herd that went in calf. For the minute they are milking ok. One heifer out of 33 wasn't in calf.

I sold the teaser bull and a Friesian bull to the factory. The teaser, which was an Angus and under 30 months, had a cold carcass weight of 405kgs and graded O+3. The Friesian who was under 36 months had a cold carcass weight of 359kgs and graded O-2. I was pleased with their weights and the price/kg received as they didn't cost me anything on meals.

A lot of time over the past month was spent getting ready the slatted houses, between power-washing, disinfecting and repairing cubicles. I purchased three diagonal barrier gates for the weanling heifers at a cost of €300 each, including hanging. They will allow me to feed more straw to the weanlings as they won't pull it into the slats and this will aid moving them in and out of the pens.

I spent some time cleaning out gutters as well. Some were very full of moss which was sitting on the roofs and got washed into the gutters after the dry summer.

In early October I hired a contractor with a panburster to help drain 15ac that I lease which tends to be wet. It had been raining on and off for a week and this left the ground too wet on the top. So we had to abandon it for another season. It will be interesting to watch the small area that I did get done, will the work make any difference?

This coming week will be spent clipping tails and backs, giving mineral boluses, dosing the animals indoors and getting ready for the Breffni/Oriel Holstein Friesian Club annual dinner dance this Friday night.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan. E-mail:

Irish Independent