No point rushing for new milk tank

Today I have been promised that my new milk tank will be installed. I have thought about it long enough. I first got a quotation in November 2005.

Seven years is a long time to be thinking, but priorities change and I suppose the volatility of milk prices didn't help either. I decided on a Packo ice-bank tank with a capacity of 7,300 litres.

My decision was mainly based on the fact that I had a Packo tank for the past 20 years and it gave me little or no bother. Its capacity was 3,000 litres, so I am more than doubling the capacity.

Preparing for the tank involved some reconstruction in my dairy. I used a meal house beside the dairy for my dairy nuts. This was done away with and brought into the dairy. Getting the new tank into the dairy involved knocking out a gable wall.

This will be replaced by a large second-hand window I have come across. I want light and space in the dairy as far too many are dark, tight and cluttered.

A new six-tonne meal bin is being erected. This will also do away with the shovelling of nuts into the auger, which we've been doing for the last 17 years.

The past month has been busy enough, especially with a good week in the middle of it. The second-cut silage pit was opened on October 8.

This is probably a couple of weeks earlier than normal but, then again, this was no normal year. The results of it show 22.4pc dry matter, 4.0 pH, 10.2pc protein, 10.6 ME, 68 DMD.

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Cows are eating it well. I am mixing it along with straw in the feeder.

The protein is a bit low so I will have to feed some meals to adjust this and to stretch out the silage and to make sure the cows are getting enough energy.

They seem fine on condition, apart from a few that will get a longer dry period to recover.

Half the weanling heifers are now housed. I am hoping to feed them mainly straw and meals, with a little silage. One big problem with this will be the heifers pulling in the straw to the slats.

The final scan of cows and heifers took place. Out of 75 cows presented for serving, 11 were not in calf, or 15pc. This has improved slightly.

I was disappointed with four of these cows as they were young and well bred and showed no apparent breeding problems. I have decided to keep these four milking until the New Year and to breed them again.

The other seven had faults and I suppose I was glad of an excuse to cull them. They were sold in the mart. Their average weight was 544kg and they made an average price of €490.

Out of 31 heifers, four were not in calf, or 13pc. Two had problems and were sold for. The other two will be bred again.

A degree in dosing is needed at this time of year. Dosing would be simple if all cows were dry on the one day. I am dosing all cows and in-calf heifers for worms, rumen and liver fluke.

All animals including cows have had their backs clipped for a lice pour-on. I have changed the pour-on I used for many years as I wasn't happy with the results.

Good records of dosing dates is critical also. I have decided to use the bolus on all in-calf animals. Four boluses were given to the cows and two to the heifers. I held off giving a bolus to any animal calving in April and May as they would be falling outside the six month effect of the boluses. I will do these animals in early January.

Five cows have calved. One came backways. Its back legs were a bit crooked for a few days, but they seem to be fine now. One of the cows that wasn't in calf did the splits on the slats as she was on heat.

Milk yield is 13.2l/cow, butter fat is 3.94pc, protein is 3.31pc, giving 0.98 kg/MS/cow/day. Somatic cell count is at 77 and TBC is 25,000. A hot wash normally cures the TBC rise. I have it pinpointed to a particular short pipe leading to the receiving jar where milk-stone deposits.

The last of the slurry for this year went out two weeks ago. It went out using the pipe system on cow paddocks. It was fairly watery. All machinery has been power-washed and put into storage for the winter.

All machines will get a coating of oil around moving parts and blades to protect them from the rust.

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

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