It's hard to believe that in less than a month we will be past the longest day of the year. May has been very challenging, with the poor weather matching the uncertain milk price. As I have stated before, bad weather and bad milk prices are an awful combination.
After coming through a good April I was reluctant to let the poor weather force me to change back to the winter regime. You tend to think that in a few days things will pick up, but then it runs into weeks and you have to take action.
The first decision I took was to rehouse the maiden heifers with the bull. They were due a move to another block of grass on May 4, but were rehoused on the previous Sunday after the torrential rain on the Saturday night. They went back out to grass a fortnight later and I hope conditions will improve to allow them eat out covers of around 1700kg dry matter. They were all dosed with endospec before they went back out.
May was a stop-start month for the cows. The cows don't be long telling you they have colds and chills as their milk yields dropped. Thankfully they cured up quickly, with the help of some 'local' medicine.
During the first week through a period of snow, sleet and cold cows were coming indoors after they had grazed so ground conditions were holding up. The second week wasn't too bad but the cold was having an effect on grass growth. Thankfully, I was able to continue spreading 30 units of urea on paddocks.
Cows were rehoused for a week of nights from May 12 to May 19 and grass is starting to build up again. In wetter conditions it is more difficult to graze out paddocks. The more residual grass left behind, the lower quality sward is next time round. This may have to be baled.
Cows are producing 28.4 litres at 3.65pc butter fat and 3.05pc protein giving 1.96kg milk solids per cow per day. My TBC is at 7000, while SCC is at 153,000.
Cows have been showing very strong heats despite the weather. About 93pc of cows submitted in six weeks. I stopped using AI last week and let out the Hereford bull with the chinball. Depending on the number of repeats I must decide whether to scan this week or leave it for another few weeks.
At our discussion group meeting last week silage making was discussed. As a group we are trying to improve on last year's silage. Each of us has to decide what steps to take to try to improve for this year.
Some are cutting sooner rather than waiting for better weather. They hope to compensate by tedding out and using an additive.
As I write I am going to get grass checked for nitrogen and sugar levels. This hopefully will give me an indication of how soon I should be mowing the silage.
Tedding out is a more practical option than using an additive. If the additive cannot be applied at harvesting there is little hope of getting it on while ensiling.
As the silage season kicks off, farm safety should be foremost in our minds.
The secondary schools finish this week and very keen, enthusiastic young people are ready to get stuck into the farming work. Stock bulls going out into herds are another danger. Let's all farm safely this summer.
Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan.