Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Planning to look at every ditch and drain over the coming months

Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

The last month brought a welcome break in the weather with the first dry spell since May 2012. The milking cows went out to grass on February 21 for about four hours each day.

This continued for two weeks. They came back in on March 8 when ground conditions got very wet again. They will be back out as soon as weather becomes kinder again. Some 28 maiden heifers are out full time on silage ground since mid-February, but they are still getting meals daily.

Slurry was also went out on silage ground at the end of the February. It was a case of picking the driest fields and working with them. I am hoping to move some more slurry soon.

No fertiliser has been applied yet because I felt the soil temperatures weren't high enough to justify spreading.

The cold east winds of the last 10 days haven't changed my mind yet. I was wondering how expensive it would be to cover the farm the same way they cover the 60ac at Cheltenham against frost. However, my suspicions are that Cheltenham probably gives a better return.

During the dry spell I did a drainage job to get rid of water from around the slatted house and feeding passages. This was on the cards for a long time. I put in seven lengths of a six-inch plastic pipe and covered it over with 18 inches of three-inch clean stone.

This pipe goes into a nine-inch drain pipe which takes all surface water away from the farm.

I am going to take a look at all drains and gullies around the farm over the coming weeks. I think many of them need to be upsized to cope with bigger volumes of rainwater and larger areas under concrete and stone.

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Presently cows are producing 28l at 3.74pc fat and 3.21pc protein. This works out at 2kg of milk solids per cow per day, while the SCC is 158,000. Silage feed is getting scarce. I am selling off any surplus stock that can be sold, including some calved cows and heifers.

I made the decision not to AI any animals until April 1 this year. I felt there was no real break from calving cows last year especially over the Christmas period. At the end of the day I am only being paid for manufacturing milk and this is more cheaply produced in the spring.

Unfortunately, we are having quite the run of Friesian bull calves. They are moving at €70 each. Incidences of scour are happening which demands more time and TLC. By St Patrick's Day each year, I find that calf scour has become a real issue.

Last week all cows got their annual BVD injection. I also clipped tails, udders and around the tailhead for tailpainting.

Button and Bows, our two pet lambs from last year, will be feeding us for a change with some Easter lamb. They were too heavy for breeding so there was only one other option.

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

Irish Independent