Farm Ireland

Monday 23 October 2017

Scanning stress is as bad as TB tests


Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

From the hottest day of the year to the wettest night, October has kicked off with challenging grazing conditions. Baled silage was introduced to the milking cows on September 26 in an effort to prolong our grazing.

The Teagasc autumn grazing planner is being followed. Paddocks have been closed since October 3 and 60pc of the grazing platform will be grazed by October 22. I'm aiming to have all paddocks closed by November 10. A set area is allocated to be grazed each day.

Roadways were highlighted in last week's article and I have noticed some parts of my own getting mucky in the recent wet spells. This was due to them being low-lying at the back of a ditch. I've decided that when they dry up a bit, I'll raise them up with a layer of stone so that they will be better able to throw the water off.

Cows seem to get so slow this time of year. I have to travel on the road to paddocks and it seems to take forever. They are probably telling me we need a rest soon. Last week, cows were producing 17 litres at 3.98pc fat and 3.61pc protein, giving a daily yield of 1.3kg milk solids per cow. These solids are going well and hopefully they'll not take a tumble with the silage. Cows are getting 4kg of a 16pc protein ration. The lower protein will hopefully help condition.

The superlevy won't be an issue for me. Some carryover cows have been dried off as they yielded little milk. Cepravin tubes are used and have been for a few years now. They are working well. October's SCC is at 163,000. After drying off, the cows were put on a fairly bare paddock on an out-farm.

The final scanning took place on September 23. It has almost got to the stage with me that I dread the scanning as much as the TB test. Out of 75 cows, 15 were not in-calf (20pc). Not a great result, but I take some comfort from the fact that this is common on many farms.

I have to say the majority of the cows not in-calf were low EBI cows and mainly the later calving cows. Three of them were high yielding and young. These were the ones that I was particularly disappointed in.

In trying to decide what to do with these empty cows, I divided them into three groups. The first group of five has other problems such as feet and low milk yield and they will be sold now. The next five will be kept on to be milked and maybe sold. The last five will be kept on milking, washed out and AI'ed again in December. You read about all the high prices for cull cows but getting these high prices is a different thing.

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It's the same story as always. You need a well fleshed cow at the correct age to get a good price. The cow that has milked all summer and is thin will not make big money. I believe in cutting your losses the first day.

I feel it would take a lot of feeding, housing and time to put my cows into the 'big money'. One out of 27 heifers wasn't in-calf. She was in-calf earlier in the year but must have lost it for some reason. I will keep her on.

Last month, I weighed my heifers with a little bit of help from Teagasc. They were last weighed at the beginning of April. Since then, they had an average daily gain (ADG) of 0.91kg and a lifetime ADG of 0.68kg. The Teagasc target weights for in-calf heifers are 440kg at 19 months old, or the end of September in my case.

My heifers weighed in at 428kg. I also weighed 10 January-February born weanlings. Their ADG from birth is 0.9kg. The target for them is 220kg by the end of September. They had an average weight of 232kg. These weanlings got meals all summer and are now on a 20pc heifer rearer ration.

It's that time of year for power-washing. Not only do the slatted sheds need a good wash out, so too does the machinery. I find the dirtiest machine to wash is the disc mower. There is so much grass and dung on it. After washing and drying, I usually paint the drums and blades with oil and park it indoors for the winter. The fertiliser sower needs a wash too and a painting of oil leaves it right for winter.

I had a busy day a couple of weeks ago as my discussion group meeting was the same day as the co-op council meeting. It was our first visit to this particular member's farm and a first visit is always interesting.

I thought I had a busy road for the cows to walk but it was nothing to what he has to contend with. It is a headache having fragmented farms.

At the co-op meeting, I listened to reps from ICOS outlining their draft policy on milk supply agreements post-quota. It's a very difficult area to understand and one that will cause much debate before agreement is achieved. We will have to face much change in our co-ops in the near future.

The meeting was hopeful that milk price will be maintained in the short term.

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

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