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Gerard Sherlock: Regular spreading of correct fertiliser is key factor in grass growth

At long last, grass is growing in abundance. I am walking the paddocks twice weekly now, as average growth rates on the farm are at 75, with some fields 100-plus.

his growth is being driven by the combination of heat and rain, along with the regular spreading of the correct fertiliser.

I often hear it said that fertiliser gets lost or wasted in poor weather like we had all spring. But I believe it is stored up in the plant and just reactivates when the growing conditions are right.

The average farm cover is at 778. Two paddocks were taken out last week and baled. Two were taken out the week before. I try to maintain AFC at around 750 and 168 kgDM/LU.

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Measuring

Walking, measuring and acting quickly is the only way to achieve this. It is so important to take out surpluses immediately rather than waiting on to grow more as this will slow down regrowths.

Also remember to replace the Ps & Ks with slurry or compound fertilisers when bales are removed.

The contractor spread slurry with the dribble-bar on the paddocks that were baled last week.

One of the major jobs on every farmer’s calendar is the first-cut silage. I was nearly three weeks behind from last year’s cutting date (2020 was an exception); the crop of grass was cut on May 29 and was ensiled the following day.

The weather was excellent for wilting. It was tedded out immediately after cutting and raked up 24 hours later. The grass yielded on average 9.5 tonnes fresh grass per acre.

May was a hit or miss month for making silage. Spare a thought for our agri contractors, who are trying to satisfy their customers, even though we are all looking for them the same day.

With the first cut out of the way it was straight out with the slurry to get things moving for the second cut.

The slurry was spread using the dribble-bar and was applied at a rate of 2,000 gallons per acre. This will be followed up with 1.5 bags/acre of ProUrea+S.

I am now at week seven of the breeding season. At day 42 I had a submission rate of almost 98pc. Two cows remained unserved but were being treated with a Controlled Internal Drug Release (CIDR). By today they should be served.

I worked hard this year to get as many cows as possible cycling. Ten cows were scanned after day 21. There were no major problems with them and eight of them showed heats. Two were treated with CIDRs.

Thankfully so far, repeats are few. I have the milk pregnancy testing kit and so far results show 20 cows are pregnant.

One cow did repeat a few days after showing a positive pregnancy so it shows that we still have to watch all cows very closely.

Last week I served cows to recommended beef AI bulls, using Belgian Blue and Hereford breeds. All of the heifers were served with AI and a Hereford bull is now with them. They were all dosed and moved to another outfarm.

Recently the discussion group met on a farm for the first time since September. It was like first day back at school, there was so much to talk about.

One of the discussions focused around letting calves outdoors. I’d say half the group had calves out while the other half had them still indoors, including myself. The main reason for keeping them indoors was the harsh weather in May.

The host farmer said there are so many variants such as weather and grass intakes when calves are out at a young age.

If they stay indoors — provided you have suitable accommodation — they are at constant temperatures and you know what they are eating daily.

The older the calf is when they get outside, the stronger they are to adapt to the change, and they are more developed to digest the grass.

For me the first batch of January-/ early February-born calves went to the field last week. I will be keeping a watchful eye on them to see whether the extra month indoors has been beneficial.

 

Gerard Sherlock farms at Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

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