Farm Ireland

Friday 27 April 2018

The grass is still growing and the milk is flowing

The O’Farrell Family, Cian (7), Oisin (10), Caoimhe (11) from Foynes, Co Limerick learning how to put on milking clusters at the Farm Relief Services (FRS) stand at the Ploughing Championships.
The O’Farrell Family, Cian (7), Oisin (10), Caoimhe (11) from Foynes, Co Limerick learning how to put on milking clusters at the Farm Relief Services (FRS) stand at the Ploughing Championships.
Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Today is the last day of September and what a month it has been. Last week saw the first shower of rain coming to these parts for quite a while and it was very welcome. This moisture, along with the heat, is still driving grass growth.

My farm cover last week was 862kg/ha. Nitrogen spreading finished up on September 12. All slurry tanks have been completely emptied except for some dirty washings, which will be spread on paddocks as they are grazed. With all the growth it's hard to believe that I will be starting to close up cow paddocks from now on for the winter.

The cows are still milking well. Currently there are 75 cows milking. The stocking rate is 3LU/ha. Yields are at 19.3l/cow, at 3.9pc butterfat and 3.5pc protein. This works out at 1.45kg of milk solids per head per day. I'm feeding 3kg of meal, while the SCC is at 182,000, TBC 5,000.

All animals are very content with plenty of grass in front of them. Calves will be dosed and weighed this week and moved to new grass. This coincides with the annual herd test.

I sold off one of my Friesian bulls to the factory. He was getting difficult to handle as he was too fond of jumping over gates and pens. He was over 30 months, graded O+2, killed out at 391kg and secured a price of €2.30/kg.

I made 96 round bales of third-cut silage on September 6. There are huge numbers of round bales everywhere, so feed scarcity shouldn't be a problem this winter. I got a little worried when I read that first cut silages this year were poorer than expected.


I got Teagasc to sample my first and second cuts. The results came back as follows: dry matter percentage for the first cut was 22pc, and 26pc for the second cut; the pH was 4.3-4.4; ammonia was between 10-11pc; protein 10.4pc (first cut) and 13.4pc (second cut); ME 10.6pc; DMDs of 68-69pc; FIM intake 88 (first cut) and 96 (second cut).

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I was happy enough with both silages. The second cut is probably better than the first, especially on intake measurements. Strangely enough the ME is identical in both of them, and even though it is a fairly average figure, it is a very important one.

My biggest questions are which I should feed first, and which one do I keep for early lactation. At least I know where I'm at, which is an important first step in deciding what to feed this winter. This way, any nutritional advice I get will be based on fact.

I took on a student from Ballyhaise College for 12 weeks during the month. He has good dairying experience. Even though the workload at this time of year is easier, there is still plenty of maintenance jobs to be done.

I am keeping a close eye on the re-seeded paddocks for any weeds. These have gotten a great chance with the recent weather. I hope to graze them in the next two weeks with the younger animals.

In early September my discussion group headed to Britain on our annual outing. The two-day trip obrought us to three different dairy farms around the Manchester area.

The first farmer milked 280 pedigree Ayrshires and 250 commercial Holsteins with a herd average of 9,500l.

The second farm was one of England's oldest dairy Shorthorn herds. Here, there were 80 pedigree Shorthorns tproducing an average of 7,500l.

The final dairy farm ran 550 pedigree Holsteins with an 11,000l herd average. This high input farm had the cows indoors all the time. A zero-grazer was used along with silage, maize and meals.

All three were supplying supermarkets throughWiseman Dairies who set the milk price twice a year. The current rate is 33p/l.

The question I always ask myself after these visits whether I am doing a better job or worse job on my farm.

I try to guage the full package, including lifestyle, farm buildings and the technology being used.

On the last dairy farm we visited they had diversified into recycling of green waste, which seemed lucrative. They had also developed an adventure trail that suits big boys as well as little ones. Well worth checking out on

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

Indo Farming