Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Solid start to calving as the work loads cranks up a notch

UCD Veterinary Department's Lea Krump speaking on colostrum management at a Teagasc-Volac calf rearing open day on the farm of John Walsh, Ahamonister, Timoleague Co Cork Picture Denis Boyle
UCD Veterinary Department's Lea Krump speaking on colostrum management at a Teagasc-Volac calf rearing open day on the farm of John Walsh, Ahamonister, Timoleague Co Cork Picture Denis Boyle
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

SINCE 4 I have calved 18 cows with a mix of nine heifers and nine bulls. There hasn't been too many problems yet apart from the very first animal to calve which was a heifer who held her cleanings.

I hoped this wasn't the start of trouble but no more have held cleanings since. I noticed a big variation in the length of time cows are carrying overdue.

Some cows have calved 5-6 days before their due date and everything very normal. One cow carried 17 days over her due date and calved a very normal heifer calf.

There was also a problem calf that only lasted three days as it was unable to pass any dung. After birth all calves are fed up to 3l of colostrum with a stomach tube.

I have used some from the freezer as it can be difficult to get colostrum from a heifer's first visit to the milking parlour.

The heifer calves are also getting fresh calf crunch after seven days. Demand for Friesian bull calves isn't great so far.

I've just finished the second cut pit and opened the first cut silage pit last Monday. It looks and smells good and tested well. Its drymatter is 26pc, crude protein is 13.5pc, drymatter digestibility (DMD) was 77, ME 11.8 and a pH of 3.8.

This was despite the fact it wasn't cut until June. I suspect it was a result of poor grass growth last April and May. I had been dealing with a lot wetter second cut silage that scored 17pc drymatter; crude protein 12.9pc; DMD 69; ME 10.6; and a pH of 4.3.

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I purchased a load of fodder beet before Christmas and it is being fed to the milking cows at 10kg/cow. Milk proteins are holding up well so far at 3.37pc, while butterfats are at 3.7pc.

Last week our discussion group analysed the profit monitors for 2013. In a way the discussion group are like shareholders analysing companies' accounts.

There was generally a happy consensus given that we were happy to show a profit after the very expensive first six months of 2013. Strengths for me in 2013 were milk solids per cow increasing to 482kg, stocking rates on the milking platform increased to 2.68LU/ha and total litres of milk produced was up by 9pc while fixed costs also remained steady.

The weaknesses were the rise in variable costs. The extra milk price was offset by the rise in feed costs. My own feed costs, which are concentrate and forage, rose by 3c/l from 2011 which equates to €15,384 or an extra €102 per cow per day for the first 150 days of 2013.

Fertiliser costs also increased by 0.75c/l, but this isn't a real concern of mine as this figure included lime spreading and a higher than normal use of compound fertilisers.

As I look back over the last 10 years of profit monitors I can see that increasing cow numbers has not improved net profit. For 2014 I must improve milk solids, maintain 2013 litres produced and reduce the feed costs.

One other area that is not financially productive on my farm is the replacement and cattle enterprises. They are not contributing to the overall profit.

The Teagasc profit monitor should be a must for all dairy farmers because there is no point in thinking of expansion if we are not maximising what we have. The farming year will speed up this week as February 1 sees slurry spreading begin in this area. My tanks are ok at present but one uncovered tank had to be moved two weeks ago.

The pressure was mounting a bit on milk quota so I leased some to tide me over until April 1. Before Christmas I got confirmation I had secured 29,000l for outright purchase at 5c/l. This should be of some help in the last year of milk quotas.

A new year's resolution I made was to make more use of a diary to write down the details of what I buy each day, bills that are owed, and things I that do on the farm.

The memory is great at the time but after a few months it is much more foggy. Another resolution is to do more on the cash flow planner. This is a great tool for planning ahead instead of juggling with big bills at the end of the year.

Gerard Sherlock farms atTydavnet, Co Monaghan. E-mail:

Irish Independent