On pages 36 and 37 we take a look at issues with exporting slurry off-farm. On good grassland farms, not enough slurry is produced on the farm to enable slurry exports to sufficiently reduce nitrate levels. If cows were inside in a shed all year – like they are in most of Germany, Holland and Denmark – then there would be plenty of slurry to export and reduce nitrates in that way. The key point here is that farmers need to be very careful if planning to export their way out of the current derogation problem. There are already thousands of farmers exporting slurry to stay out of derogation and finding farms that are able to take slurry is getting harder and harder, because of banding and other requirements. In the case study on page 36, the 100-cow farmer on 100 acres has to export 166m3 of slurry to get back under 220kg N/ha of a stocking rate. There is 1,000l of slurry in 1m3, so 166m3 is 166,000l – which is equivalent to 37,000 gallons of slurry to go off the farm. Farmers that are in a derogation have until the end of the month to submit movement notifications online and these also have to be accepted online by the farmer taking in the slurry. Non-derogation farmers have until the end of the year to submit slurry movements. Reminder also that closing fertiliser stocks need to be declared online by 15 October.
With about four weeks of grazing left on most free-draining farms and growth rates beginning to fall off quickly, it’s all about demand management from now on. Grass growth rates will be lower than demand on most farms, which means average farm cover is going to be eaten into. Reducing demand by selling cull cows is a really good option. Numbers going through marts have increased, but demand is holding up, particularly for fleshy cows. It has been a difficult year in terms of weather and milk price cuts, and meal prices are still high – so the merits of milking on over winter are questionable. Demand for grass can also be reduced by feeding silage and drying off low-yielding cows or first-calvers. Extending grass in the diet for as long as possible will shorten the winter, reduce feed costs and improve milk yield and constituents.
It’s a high risk time for bloat in cows, with reports of incidences around the country again this week. Damp weather and low dry matter grass/clover are key risk factors. Not all preventative measures will work, so vigilance is required, especially when grazing high clover paddocks. Feeding some silage or straw will help to reduce the risk of bloat, so too will using a small break of grass initially, to get cows to graze more roughage at the base of the sward.
Preparations are under way for Dairy Day, taking place on 23 November in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork. Sponsored by Bord Bia, Ornua and NDC, this year’s event will focus on ways to reduce costs of production, navigating your way through the changes to the nitrates derogation and will take a look at international dairy markets to assess where milk price is going – along with lots more and over 70 trade stands.