Dairy Farmers – Have You 66% of Your Farm Grazed?

Dairy farmers using a spring rotation planner should have grazed 66% of their farms by March 17, according to Teagasc.
Dairy Farmers Do You Have 66 percent of your land grazedTeagasc research shows that the rotation planner is the most effective way to allocate spring grass to the dairy herd. The rotation planner allocates an appropriate proportion of the farm each day from when cows are first turned out to grass to early April.
However, Teagasc’s James Comer said that farmers in the west of Ireland may be forced to push their rotation planners back by one week due to difficult grazing conditions this spring. The Teagasc Dairy Specialist said that dairy farmers in the west of Ireland should aim to have their full farm grazed by April 15.
Comer said that difficult conditions caused by poor weather has delayed turnout on a number of farms. As a result, farmers should push their rotation planner back by one week to ensure that their cows have adequate grass at the start of the second rotation. “Achieving this target ensures that there will be enough grass on the farm in April, as the first paddocks grazed have sufficient time to recover.
“The main thing is to try and get cows out to grass. Farmers should target finishing their first rotation by April 15. This is necessary as it is taking grass longer to recover this spring,” he said.
Comer was involved in the preparation of the Aurivo Teagasc Dairy Handbook, which offers farmers advice on making the best use of grass in dairying in the west and north west of Ireland.
According to Teagasc, farmers who use the spring rotation planner will ensure that there is sufficient grass on their farms until the end of the first rotation in April. However, the plan will vary from farm to farm, depending on when turnout occurs and when grass growth equals demand or ‘magic day’. Teagasc also says that farmers should avoid skipping ahead of the area plan, as this will result in a short first rotation, not enough grass to get to ‘magic day’ and may also compromise subsequent regrowth rates.

Key dates for the completion of the spring rotation planner:
• February 7: Start grazing
• March 1: 30% grazed
• March 17: 66% grazed
• April 7: Begin second round
• Farmers in the west should aim to start the second rotation of April 15

“Farmer of the Year” Awards Return with €20,000 Fund

Farmer of the Year awards return with €20,000 fund

Farmer of the Year Awards 2016The hunt is on for the country’s top farmers as the Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards returns with a fantastic prize fund of over €20,000.

If you believe you are one of the best producers in the country or you know one of the top farmers now is your chance to get recognition for all the hard work.

You can log on to www.farmeroftheyear.ie to apply online or to download a form to enter by post. The awards are free to enter and farmers can nominate themselves or alternatively be nominated by a third party

There are a wide range of categories available to enter including Beef, Sheep, Dairy, Tillage, Equestrian, Alternative Farm Enterprises and Rising Stars, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grand Prix Award for the overall Farmer of the Year for 2016.

Last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to Anna May McHugh for her dedicated service to the National Ploughing Association.

In addition there is a category to promote excellence in farm safety, which is being sponsored by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

The Alternative Farm Enterprise category gives farmers involved in more niche enterprises such as vegetables, fruit, pigs, poultry, flowers, and organics, along with those engaged in forestry, an opportunity to show-case their achievements. The Rising Star section is aimed at recognising the huge pool of talent that is coming up through the ranks of Irish agriculture.

Award winners will share a prize fund of €20,000 which will be presented at a glitzy ceremony in The Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin on Friday May 20, 2016.

The competition is run in conjunction with Zurich Insurance, and with categories sponsored by ICMSA, ICSA, Teagasc, Landrover and the Health and Safety Authority.

Michael Doyle, head of sales and agri-business with Zurich Insurance, said that the company was thrilled to be involved in the initiative for the third year in a row.

“As one of the country’s leading providers of farm insurance, we are proud to continue as title sponsor of these prestigious awards, which are now an annual highlight in the farming calendar,” he said.

“The Farmer of the Year Awards highlight the dedication and innovation which has been witnessed in the farming community over the past few years, and celebrate the high achievers in the industry. We are delighted to be involved in recognising these successes and look forward to seeing this year’s entries.”

-Independant Farming

10 Low-cost Investments to Improve Farm Productivity

10 Low-cost Investments to Improve Farm Productivity

Beef farmer Ciaran Lenehan-Beef farmer Ciaran Lenehan, Co Meath

Relative to our milk-producing neighbours, the level of investment on suckler farms is decidedly low.

It is hard to justify substantial spending in an industry where margins can be feeble and return on investment is not readily evident. However, outlined below are 10 low-cost investments that will act to improve farm productivity without breaking the bank.

1. ICBF HerdPlus
For a mere €60, we receive a full breakdown on herd-performance. Every necessary detail is at our fingertips. It can be the foundation for any productive herd as a helpful measure of herd fertility and output per cow. In addition, the service is a guide for culling decisions, sire selection and a medium for record keeping.

2. Silage sampling
Knowing what’s in the clamp can help hugely with feed-budgeting. For example, where weanlings are to return to spring grass, 72% DMD silage plus 1kg of meal will suffice. At 65% DMD, we need to feed 2kg of meal daily. Fifty calves on the poorer quality silage will need an extra 7.5t of meal over a five-month winter. Expect to pay €30 per sample.

3. Weight recording service
Though pricey at €100 per 30 animals in finishing situations, accurate drafting of animals adds value in itself. As well as incurring pricing penalties, over-finished animals are inefficient. Though there are excellent stock judges out there, being ‘‘off’’ by 20kg can be the equivalent of almost €50 worth of carcase weight. We know what growth rates to expect from certain breeds and genders. Hence, we can draft or adjust groups accordingly. When adjusting groups, avoid re-mixing bulls.

4. Calving cameras
Possibly the most worthwhile investment of the 10; with cameras in place we assume complete control of the calving process. A farmer knows exactly when to intervene or, perhaps more importantly, when to leave things alone. Constant checking disturbs both man and beast – cameras are a no-brainer where even a moderate number are due to calve. At home, our calving cameras have been the best investment in memory. Prices vary hugely, but a fit-for-purpose device can be obtained for less than €100.

5. Scanning
Empty cows are but expensive slurry producers. Unless they can provide external income via flushing or showing, or carry genetics that we need to keep in the herd, they should be aimed for a lairage. If numbers are small, we can pay up to €5 per head. Prices will decrease as more animals are scanned.

6. Soil sampling
Farms should be soil-tested every five years. Staggeringly, data suggests that over 90% of holdings are deficient in at least one nutrient, which will negatively affect growth even if all of the others are at optimum levels. Aim for index 3 for both P and k, adjusting fertiliser mixes accordingly. Also, if pH is too low (<6.0), we are effectively wasting fertiliser regardless of nutrient index.

7. Heat detection
In AI-based breeding regimes, rigid heat detection practices are crucial. All else being equal, a missed heat translates to 20kg less potential weaning weight, provided she conceives on her next ovulation. For AI to be worthwhile, our ability to detect must be as good as the bull’s. Cows should be fitted with a detection-aid 40 days post-calving. Also, carry out pre-breeding in the weeks leading up to breeding and estimate potential bulling dates. Our detection aid of choice is a scratch card-based sticker. Strength of the adhesive is the draw here – I often find myself pulling them off at housing in November. The said patches are €1.50 a pop. Choose emulsion-based tail paint if this proves too expensive.

8. Grazing infrastructure
Investments eight and nine go hand-in-hand. Grass is the unavoidable buzzword and the cornerstone of Irish livestock production. Yet, beef producers waste nearly half of what they grow. Operating a paddock system will ramp up utilisation, while grazing tight early in the season will ensure that subsequent grass quality is excellent. Splitting a 50m-wide field will cost €25, provided an electric perimeter fence is already in place. Good quality wire can be bought at €0.07/m with posts costing €2.75. In theory, we should never need more than two splitting wires per grazing group.

9. Water troughs/extension pipe
Water points are the limiting factor for many when paddock systems are suggested. Heavy-duty, portable troughs can be purchased for €80. Also, appropriate piping is €1/m if we wish to move current troughs to more practical locations. Piping can run over ground should the intention be to move drinkers with cattle. Our temporary fences are already in place. Hence, a paddock system can now be operated quite easily. Overnight, we can drastically improve utilisation and increase our stock carrying ability.

10. Learn
Farm walks, seminars and open days are invaluable sources of research. In what other industry do those at the proverbial ‘‘top’’ open their doors and allow potential competitors unrestricted access to the complete workings of their enterprise? Little tweaks and tricks learned from these days are often more helpful than the subject matter itself. Tom might produce a 400kg carcase at 15 months, but the most valuable message taken from the day could be the layout of his crush. These events are often free too.