Autumn rotation planner is now in full swing and some farmers are now wondering how they are going to manage to get through covers fast enough to reach target area grazed per week.

If pre grazing covers are high and moving through these covers is slow, target several lower (mid-range) paddocks to increase area grazed and closed. Grass closed up now is our early lactation feed next spring – don’t underestimate how important it is to set the farm up correctly.

On farms were grass growth rates have been curtailed by lack of rainfall.. the end is nigh with a wet week forecast.

It is worthwhile considering which paddocks will be best suited to carrying heavier covers and which should be closed later in autumn (e.g. reseeds which will tiller over winter). Paddocks closed mid October will be the first grazed in spring, as we begin grazing on mid-wedge covers to get cows back into the swing of the ‘green diet.’ Slurry to be spread on closed paddocks up to mid October.

The liquid milk conference was held in Wexford in recent days. It was clear that some farmers within the winter milk scenario that have a smallish proportion of their annual milk locked into a liquid milk contract are unsure as to what direction to head in post quota.

Joe Patton gave some excellent examples of the results from moving to spring calving, expanding the autumn herd or increasing on-farm efficiency. Increasing efficiency had a greater impact on profitability than simply increasing cow numbers – we need to all focus on how we can drive more profit out of our business than talking about how we are going to drive more cows into it!!! Efficiency before expansion!

During my talk I illustrated several examples of areas were farmers in NI have allowed themselves to fall victim to, due to lack of discipline. E.g.

  • Allowing calving spread to extend, average calving interval 420 days
  • Relying on sales people for information on nutrition
  • Focusing on white water output instead of hard cash!
  • Lack of culling: poor performers, lame cows, SCC, infertile cows
  • Overfeeding late lactation cows
  • Calving heifers at 24 months instead of 30 months

I hope there were some important lessons taken away by the audience on the huge costs associated with inefficiency. Teagasc have built up a significant portfolio on autumn and winter milk production over the past 5-10 years, farmers within this production system must adopt the research demonstrated rather than costing their business’ money because they insist on learning by their own mistakes!!!

Cathal McAleer is a grassland consultant working with individual farmers and facilitating discussion groups throughout Ireland.

087 160 2491 / 0044 7749 531679 [email protected]