I farm here in partnership with my mother, Noreen, 1.5km outside the town of Abbeyleix. We are milking 130 spring calving cows, supplying Tirlán, on a reasonably dry farm.
My father Pat also has a silage contracting business, grows spring and winter barley and sells some tractors and machinery. My wife, Klara, also breeds pedigree New Zealand Suffolk sheep and works as a farm management specialist in Teagasc.
We hired a full-time worker this year to create a better work-life balance and to take away some pressure and stress. Finding good staff wasn’t easy as good people are few and far between. We started looking around this time last year, before the spring rush, and I feel it was a great decision. We found a great local lad who has good dairy experience and great stockmanship.
We have a milking platform of 100ac and three out-blocks for silage of 65ac, so nearly 50% of what we farm is leased. Twenty-five acres of this is new to us this year. This will allow us maintain our cow numbers with the new nitrates regulations, as we are in the top milk band.
Frustrating nitrates regulations
Our cows produced 6,600l last year with 562kg of milk solids. The new nitrates regulations are frustrating for us, as we have an average number of cows and would have to reduce numbers if we don’t get extra land because we have high-producing, highly efficient cows.
Our cows are high EBI (€237 average), Holstein x British Friesian. We breed with all Friesian AI and all stock is sold from the farmyard.
Our heifers are contract reared and we try to keep things simple and just keep the minimum number of stock we require, for efficiency, as being over-stocked doesn’t work. We kept 34 heifer calves this year and we keep 10 to 12 bull calves each year that we sell as breeding bulls at 14 to 15 months old.
All remaining calves are sold at three to five weeks of age to local farmers.
This week we sold some cull cows that were high SCC and gone low in milk yield, they averaged €800/head.
The weather has been extremely challenging this year and just when we thought we might get a decent dry spell, the past fortnight has been very wet again, with 80mm of rain falling.
Just when we thought we might get a decent dry spell, the past fortnight has been very wet again
We follow the Teagasc autumn rotation planner and cows are getting a fresh allocation at each milking. I find every autumn cows get through grass much quicker than expected and it’s hard to hold cover without supplementing with silage or zero-grazing.
We are zero grazing when ground conditions allow, and going in with bales on the days it’s too wet to travel. We are feeding roughly 6kg dry matter per head of zero grazed grass or silage.
Luckily cows are still out full-time. The in-calf heifers came home from the contract rearers four weeks ago and are grazing on one of the out-blocks. We are moving them daily in wet weather and every two to three days if it’s dry, and back fencing. Only one of our out-blocks is fenced and if we get another month out of it we will be lucky.
We will be starting to dry off the early calving, first lactation cows in early November. The countdown for the winter wind-down will be on then.
We have TAMS applications in for solar panels and to extend the collecting yard tank because of the new soiled water storage regulations.
It doesn’t look like either of these jobs will be started by the end of the year due to the delay in the department for TAMS approvals.