Time is flying. Believe it or not the next 25th will be Christmas Day.
The rain did eventually come during last month and quickly speeded up rotations. Cows went in by night on October 25 and were housed full time on November 13. I reckon cows grazed for approximately 250 days in 2014. This is the longest number of days ever on this farm. I didn't regraze any paddocks that had been closed. Some of the first paddocks that were closed have a cover of around 1,200kg/DM/ha. They should be in good shape for the spring grazing which should be happening in about 10 weeks.
Cows are eating round bales. The first cut pit will be opened next week. So far I am drying off cows that are due to calve first and low yielders. I will condition score them and dry off some of thinner cows.
Generally cows seem to be in good condition this year. My milk sensitivity test showed nothing unusual. I am using a different tube this year called Bovaclox DC Xtra. I have used Cepravin for many years with good results but a change will do no harm.
I still use lactating tubes in any cows showing a SCC of greater than 200,000 before drying them off. There are 50 cows milking currently producing 14 litres at 4.17pc butterfat, 3.44pc protein, giving 1.1kg milk solids per cow per day, with SCC 214,000 and TBC at 5000.
All in-calf heifers were housed during the first week of November and some of the weanling heifers were housed last week.
At housing all tails and backs were clipped. I have done all the housed animals with Ectospec pour-on for lice which needs repeating in two weeks. All animals have also got their mineral boluses.
During the past month I had an unannounced full cross compliance inspection carried out by the Department of Agriculture. I arrived back into the yard one day to be met by a gentleman dressed in green and armed with folders and a laptop. The sight of one of these lads does send shivers up the spine.
I must say the shivers were quickly dispelled, however, as I was put at ease by a very polite and helpful person.
I can only presume that all Department staff are like this. The inspection lasted over two days and it took about seven hours on the farm. The pesticides records did take a little tidying up as great care must be taken here to write down the correct spraying rates.
During the inspection:
* All fields were walked;
* Animals counted and tags checked:
* Spoutings and gullies were checked for leaks;
* Slurry tanks were measured:
* The animal remedies book was checked.
* A lot of questions on farming practises had to be answered, usually a yes or no answer.
The result was a pass apart from two single tags that were missing. This would be very common. The inspector left very happy, and so was I.
It wasn't totally over when he left as I had to submit a fertiliser plan for 2013 and all meal invoices for 2012.
This was my first inspection ever on the farm by the Department. Why me now was my question. I am coming close to the 170kg figure for nitrates.
They reckon all farmers will get an inspection sometime during their life. As the bible says "be prepared, be ready, you never know the time nor hour."
Good record keeping is essential. Write everything down that happens each day. It's amazing how you quickly forget - did I spray that field or was it the other one. I cannot stress enough the importance of repairs and maintenance around the farmyard. First impressions do last.
During the summer I participated in the IFA organised Smart Farming programme. It was an on- farm cost saving study looking at the areas of soil fertility, energy, grassland, water, feed, inputs and waste, time management and machinery. I had to supply all my 2013 costs in these areas.
The results of the study gave me actions and recommendations and the potential annual savings.
This figure amounted to €10,893. The biggest potential savings were for water - something that's topical at the minute.
They estimate a target 10pc, increase in milk yield if I add five extra water drinkers. The optimum target flow rate is 13 litres per cow/hour.
My actual flow rate is 10 litres per cow/hour based on my water usage in 2013. In other words my cows are not getting enough water and therefore yield is suffering. It is an area I will look at in 2015.
Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan.