Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Silage quality should be better this year

Silages should be a lot better this year
Silages should be a lot better this year
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

One month ago today my first cut silage was completed. With the dramatic pick-up in the weather during the third and last week of May, it was a case of working closely with the silage contractor and listening attentively to weather forecasts.

I got three grass samples checked the previous Thursday and they showed up sugar levels of 6.5pc, 5.5pc and 3.5pc. I was surprised myself that they were as high. Nitrogen levels were very low also with one reading showing between 50-100 and the other two down at 25. These readings encouraged me to definitely go for cutting.

The grass was cut in 10ft swaths flat on Monday, May 25. It was raked into 30ft rows the next day and picked up that evening. No additive was applied.

Silages should be a lot better this year as grass was of better quality and a lot drier at cutting time. The amount of effluent run off was a lot less than last year. I was happy enough with the yield of grass considering the poor grass growth in May.

My slurry contractor was starting to mix tanks before we finished covering the pit. He had a lot of slurry moved within 48 hours.

Around 2,500 gallons per acre was spread. Ten days later I spread 60 units of nitrogen (N) mainly in the form of urea and cut sward. Some of the silage ground needed a bit extra of 16pc phosphorus (P) and 50pc potassium (K) which was mixed in with the urea manually. It worked out at a little over half a bag per acre.


I have taken out six acres of my silage ground for reseeding. It was sprayed off with roundup and it will be ploughed this week, around 12 days after spraying off. Ploughing is a great way of getting rid of the farmyard waste such as waste silage and calf house bedding.

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The same ground was ploughed 20 years ago in 1995 and has been in silage ever since giving two cuts every year. I can remember 1995 very well as it was the last long very hot spell of weather we had in this country until the 2013 heatwave.

Presently the 71 cows are producing 28.8 litres per cow per day at 3.53pc fat and 3.26pc protein. This equates to 2kg of milk solids per cow per day on 3kg of a high energy, 16pc protein dairy nut. Total bacterial counts (TBC) are at 9,000.

Cows are going into grass covers of 1,600kg drymatter (DM). Two paddocks have been topped so far using a disc mower last week. Pasture sward is spread once a week at a rate of 27 units per acre. The cows were scanned two weeks ago. Even though submission rates were good, conception to first service was disappointing.

Four cows needed Receptal to treat cysts and three cows needed Estrumate. One cow had got a CIDR and has cycled.

I am keeping a close eye on the Hereford bull to ensure that he is working properly as there are a number of repeats from him as well, even though cows are internally clean and cycling. As a precaution I am using AI on the cows as well.

All calves are out on grass now in two groups. They are grazing some of the aftergrass, which is a light cover for them. They will continue to get meals of about 2kgs each.

The calves that have been out the longest, around five weeks, will be dosed soon. I will hold out as long as possible as I don't hear any coughing. The Friesian bull was swapped over to the younger group of maiden heifers on June 13. Also around 30 bales of silage were taken from the heifer block last week.

The last 10 days have been busy and exciting with a great variety of activities, including the annual Breffni/Oriel herds competition, meetings regarding the merger between Town of Monaghan Co-op and Ballyrashane, and the launch of the local Tydavnet Show and the discussion group. These activities all help to enhance a balanced farming life.

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan


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