Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Weather turned full circle, but at least we filled pits

Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

Since my last column, the weather has turned full circle. It has been a case of farmers buying hay one week and making hay the next week.

Thankfully, we made a great start to filling our silage pit during the good weather.

My first cut silage was mowed on June 6 and lifted 24 to 36 hours later. I did two grass tests with Teagasc before mowing and both samples showed no nitrogen and sugar levels of 4-4.5. The samples were taken in the morning, so sugar levels were in fact rising as the day progressed.

There was a fair variation between fields in terms of yield quantity. However, all fields had good standing grasses with no yellow butts and this should improve quality.

The silage contractor came in when I needed him and left without any breakages. It can be a worrying time as all my silage comes off out-farms and I just pray there will be no road accidents.

There is still no easy way to cover the pit, but thankfully relations and friends came to the rescue. Earning a 'swap' is still alive and well. I check the pit on a daily basis for about 10 days afterwards to tighten down the cover.


With the silage in, the slurry has to go out. Within two days of fields going white, they went black with slurry. A lot of slurry had built up again with one tank full, even though it had been emptied in the spring.

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You need plenty of liquids when mixing slurry tanks as some can be pretty thick. The dairy washings are great to help in this regard.

Hopefully fertiliser will be applied in the next week. I'll probably use CAN. I also have to spread less than a half bag per acre of 16pc phosphorus (P) as my P indexes were low in the last soil sampling results.

If time and weather allow me, I will spread some lime as well on all the silage ground. It is recommended to go with the slurry first and then the lime and then CAN, not urea. Lime has no effect on P and K. None of the ground needs any more than 1.5t/ac.

The milking cows are on grass full time since May 17. All remaining cows were calved by the end of May.

They are producing 28.5 litres at 3.6pc butterfat and 3.2pc protein, giving 1.99kg milk solids per cow per day at an SCC of 193,000, and a TBC of 5,000.

Butterfats took a tumble in May, going down to as low as 3.39pc, but thankfully they are recovering. Cows are being fed 2-3kg of high UFL 16pc nut.

I am coming to the end of AI breeding and the Friesian bull will come into play this week. I scanned all cows three weeks ago.

There were seven cows with cysts and some needed Receptol. Twelve cows needed a wash out 24 hours after being served. One cow needed a CIDR.

The Angus teaser seems to have done a good job as he missed no cows that were on heat.

I had two cows with mastitis in the last month which needed tubes and injections.

Maiden heifers are due now for scanning and I will dose them at the same time.

There is another group of eight maiden heifers which were younger and lighter than the main bunch. I began to AI them last week.

A group of 15 calves went to grass on June 3 and the other group of 15 will get out next week.

They will continue to get a heifer rearer nut at grass.

The disc mower is out again, with some paddocks needing topping. I need to spray against docks and buttercups, amongst other weeds.


Last week, judging took place for the local Breffni/Oriel herds competition. Sometimes it's good to bring in an outsider to access the cows.

In a lot of cases, the cows are looking better than we thought after the dreadful weather of the past 12 months.

Our stock judging field evenings are coming up soon. I look forward to these as they are great family nights.

Our next discussion group meeting will be a Cell Check workshop. Our new cell count farm report has a lot of worthwhile information.

Even though I feel I am at a manageable cell count level, the report tells me the areas I need to improve on.

With a reading of SCC 133, the report says I am losing 33.2 litres of milk per day.

Gerard Sherlock is a dairy farmer from Tydavnet, Co. Monaghan. E-mail:

Irish Independent