Friday, June 9, 2023

Why this dairy farmer is confident that lower stocking rate will not affect his profits much

Signpost farmers on the Lakeland program recently found a helpful talk about how to reduce energy bills on a dairy farm.

Oh Upton, an energy specialist at Teagasque Moorpark, pointed to night power, heat recovery units, plate coolers and variable speed pumps and milk pumps.

His main message was to get the basics down before looking at solar panels.

This was good advice. I plan to make some changes in the coming weeks and months.

Grass growth is excellent at 70-100 kg dm/ha/day. I am measuring the hay once a week and taking field walks twice a week to keep a close eye on cover.

I don’t want the grass to get out of control. If I walk the farm regularly I can react and take out the paddock in time.

I’ve taken out the surplus bales – four paddocks in total.

In the past I used to operate on a milking platform – 4.5LU/ha at a high stocking rate. I decided to reduce it this year for a number of reasons, including minimizing nitrogen input and maximizing individual animal performance, while matching the stocking rate with the average grass growth curve for the farm.

I am on 4.0 lu/ha. I’m finding the hay easier to manage at this stocking rate. We’ll see how this affects my profitability at the end of the year, but it probably won’t affect it much because I’ll have very few of these marginal cows that needed a lot of purchased feed to sustain.

Also my nitrogen requirement is very low while I am producing milk from the herd.

I am reducing the use of chemical nitrogen in summer to 20 units/acre after each rotation. That’s just 1 unit per day.

In the past I was a more heavy user of chemical N: for the summer I used 27 units per rotation. I had to because of the stocking rate.


Dermot checking on his grass

I am happy with one unit per day. It’s working for me. I’m not sure about reducing that to 0.8 units per day, which is what the research is saying… I’ll see how I get on during the summer.

I sewed in clover on some trees, some clover is already in swarm on April 25th. Looks like the new clover seed is coming along nicely.

I’ve grazed it twice already and I’m really careful about grazing it on low cover – 800-1,000 kgdm/ha, just to give the clover a chance to establish.

I was a little annoyed with myself recently: Vikas picked up the pace and a paddock went over 1,000kg. You really need to keep a close eye on them to avoid the covers getting out of control.

Stitched in the paddock these will get no en for the rest of the summer, but some 0 7 30, half a bag every other round.

I had sown the seed again on April 27 in 10 percent of the field. With good humidity and scorching heat, the situation could not have been better.

The breeding season is going well. I have all the cows and heifers.

Heifers were synchronized and we saw repeats for a week – we picked up 04% of repeats.

The stock bull is now near the heifer. We’ve had three weeks of AI with a deposit rate of 90 percent on cows, so I’m happy with that.

We invested in a heat detection collar this year to make life easier for ourselves. Electronic collars should in theory at least reduce the carbon footprint: lower emptying rates and earlier detection of cow disease could lead to reduced mortality and mortality.

We will scan everything in 28 days. It is useful to be able to pick up cows/calves that are not showing heat but are not even in calf.

Doing this early allows us to intervene and address the problem to bring them back into heat.

We used sexual semen for the first round. I chose high-EBI cows that were calved in February and in good condition (3+).

Dermot Heaney Farm in Kilberry, Navan, Ko Meath

Advisor: Fergal Maguire, Owen McPartland

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