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Gerald Murphy

8 January 1999

NEW PRODUCTS

Tough castration rings are a snip

CUT the cost of castration by using own-brand rubber castration rings on this seasons lamb crop from Kent-based manufacturer Net-Tex.

Made on the same machinery as leading castration ring brands, Net-Tex claims its own-brand latex rings are made to the same tough standards as required by the New Zealand government authority.

Available in a bulk bin of 1500 rings costing about £12.28 for large flocks, a 500-ring box is about £4.20 and a 100-ring box is 96p. Net-Tex rings are available from merchants nationwide (01474-813999, fax 01474-812112).

Genus pair give dairy genetics a boost

IMPROVE dairy cow genetics with two additions to the Genus breeding stud.

Chartoise Herby, a high milk and type sire, is the first of the two sires to join the stud. A Mascot son from a Blackstar dam, Herby offers an increased milk yield of 1179kg, over 30kg protein, £100 PIN and £107 ITEM. The company says Herby also rates over two points for type merit and udder composite, with straws costing £18.

The second sire is Holim Apollo, a Faris Wayne son, with £127 PIN and £129 ITEM. The company suggests Apollo is particularly attractive to those producers concerned about falling fat and protein levels. Apollo straws cost £25 (01270-536584, fax 01270-536601).

Revamped cubicles add to cow safety

REJUVENATE old, fixed cubicles to increase lunging area and reduce risk of damage to cows with flexible cubicle guides and straps from manufacturer JNC Multi-Stock.

Available to fit almost all metal, wood or concrete cubicle divisions, each webbing strap is secured with adjustable guides and tightened using a ratchet mechanism. Guides cost £3 and webbing 80p/m (24p/ft).

The company estimates it would cost £75 to fit the flexible strap system to a run of 15 cubicles, including all materials and fastenings.

Straps can be adjusted to match a change in cow size. Available direct from JNC Multi-Stock (01260-290440, fax 01260-290455).

FARMERFOCUS

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, about

40 miles north of Inverness.

The farm comprises a

480-sow indoor unit

producing 95kg pigs for one

outlet and 85kg pigs for a

more local abattoir. A further

320 sows are run outdoors.

Land not used for pigs grows spring barley for use in the farms mill-and-mix plant

WHAT a year 1998 has been. Pig prices sunk to depths we could never have imagined in our worst nightmares. Many pig farmers have gone out of business and the damage to others will be with us for years to come.

My warnings of last month regarding high cull sow numbers must have started ringing alarm bells in some quarters. One of the major abattoirs has rung round its suppliers to see how many pigs they have coming through for the New Year and asking about plans to increase or decrease numbers.

Its the first time in all my business life, either running or owning pig units, that I have down-sized a business and I dont like it. We have not built or refurbished any buildings and have reduced sow numbers. Meanwhile on the Continent they have been subsidising pig producers and laughing at our floundering efforts.

I would like to make the unit more efficient for both growing pigs and to ease work load. Wet feeding newly weaned pigs has been a tremendous leap forward. But just when you think youre making headway lack of continuity comes back to kick you in the teeth. If we could extend it to heavier pigs, 25kg plus, it would show savings in labour and feed.

One subject of concern is grain quality. In our area, wheat on the whole is excellent, but barley is very poor. Its easy to blame the weather, but we can almost tell which agronomist has been advising the grower just by grain quality.

But, just like last year, we are competing against the intervention board for tonnes and quality, which cannot be right. Why cant barley growers be like pig producers, sinking or swimming on their own ability and not being feather-bedded by an artificial market?

We must be positive as we reach the new millennium, but I am fed up hearing about it already. I see in its wisdom the government has decided to give everyone an extra days holiday. I must remember to inform the pigs.

Oh well, 1999 is a new year with new challenges, high pig prices and better weather – well it is the panto season. &#42

Its the first time Dennis Bridgeford has down-sized an enterprise in all his business life. He has reduced sow numbers and stopped building work.

John Alpe

John Alpe farms with his

parents at New Laund Farm,

near Clitheroe in Lancashire.

Besides the tenanted 80ha

(200 acres) the family own

36ha (90 acres), and rent a

further 40ha (100 acres).

About 60 dairy cows and 60

followers, 500 Swaledale

and Mule ewes and 250

store lambs are run on the

farms. Bacon pigs are also

fed on contract

AT THE end of September we had a new batch of BOCM Pauls contract pigs delivered from Hull. These were good, healthy, evenly sized pigs.

However, it will prove to be our last batch of pigs because BOCM Pauls is scaling down its pig production. It plans to concentrate mainly on the eastern side of the country, ceasing its production in the west.

Its local representative told us that BOCM Pauls slaughter around 15,000 pigs a week, so it doesnt take a genius to realise it must be losing serious money on this part of its business.

Previously, we were unaffected by slumps in pig prices, as our pig contract is based on ability to achieve specific targets. However, this looks like the end of the line for our pig enterprise.

We have had pigs on contract for 13 years. Our pig buildings are converted old shippons and adapted poultry cabins. It took 18 months to write off the investment, so they certainly dont owe us anything.

There will only be a small number of pigs that have not reached bacon weight by Christmas and these will be go for pork in the New Year.

I think these will prove to be the last pigs kept on the farm – certainly in my time. I am not sure what the destiny of the buildings will be, with the state of farming perhaps farm diversification will be necessary. The only thing I can think of is Viagra production – which may stiffen my position considerably.

In mid-December, we had a close look at our milk quota position with the help of a quota profile computer program from our feed suppliers. This predicted a 15,000 litre shortfall in milk production to achieve quota.

Armed with these facts we subsequently leased out the excess quota. Our cows have not milked particularly well this winter. However, milk quality is better than usual. Once again, we blame poor weather which has probably been a significant influencing factor. &#42

John Alpe is being forced to give up his pig rearing enterprise at New Laund Farm, after 13 years.

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in

partnership with his parents,

farms a 121ha (300-acre)

farm tenanted from Clinton

Devon Estates. He milks

175 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize

HAVING said all year that I want a January to March calving pattern, my plans have changed slightly. Our 35 autumn and 10 summer calvers are now running with beef bulls for six weeks. Anything that doesnt hold will either milk-on and be served to calve the following January or be sold.

The reason behind serving them is that the group we have just calved have added a valuable boost to milk incomes when most of the herd is dry. I think the business term is cashflow, but around here its known as being hard up.

All autumn born calves were beef calves which stayed with their mothers for 10 days before they were sold, this has meant little work calf rearing.

Now cows are in organic conversion, we are having a closer look at conservation crops for planting in spring for feed next winter.

Maize has been grown in the past, but we will probably try some other crops such as red clover, lucerne or arable silage. At the moment, Im not too keen on red clover and lucerne because they would need cutting three or four times a season, so contracting costs are high.

Lucerne was grown here in the past. But it was dropped due to the expense of cutting several times and lack of persistency. In theory, it should be ideal on our light ground and well possibly give it another go.

It seems a lot cheaper and simpler to cut a crop once, like arable silage. We will probably grow a combination of cereals and peas, undersown with a white clover/ryegrass ley. This is still being debated and Im trying to find information on different seed mixtures.

This time last year, I remember hoping things would get improve financially for 1998. Weve gone through the year with few positives in the agricultural sector. Maybe the lift in the beef ban will be the kick-start we need for 1999. I cannot see any big lift in our fortunes but any increase to create sustainable incomes would be very positive at the moment.

On that happy note I would like to wish you all a very prosperous New Year. &#42

Maize will be replaced with other forage crops such as red clover, lucerne or arable silage for feeding next winter, says Peter Wastenage.

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha

(275-acre) farm, in partner-

ship with his parents, in

County Waterford on the

south-east coast of Ireland.

Dairying is the main

enterprise with emphasis on

milk from grass. The mainly

all-grass unit carries 110

Holstein Friesian cows and

also grows maize and cereals

for home consumption

BY THE time cows are housed each year, I am delighted to finish running around with buckets and bags of concentrate. But they arent in more than a week before our thoughts switch to turn-out.

All the area for grazing in the first three weeks has received slurry at 2000 gal/acre. The first N will be applied when we get some dry weather, preferably five successive days. This N is essential for early grass. We are hoping to turn-out in the first week of February.

Our cows are milking well indoors. Yields are up on last year. We have no recent recording, however, 15 fewer fresh cows and five fewer stales are producing the same milk as this time last year. We are running on quota.

We may split off the highest yielders soon as the feeder is getting fairly full. A few more milkers and we will have to do two feeds anyway, so the only extra work will be during milking.

At this time of year everyones thoughts turn to the year gone and the year to come.

Weather-wise last year was another tough one, price-wise milk was okay, but beef was a disaster. Not long after I came home from college we sold a batch of cull cows which averaged almost £600, the last ones we sold barely made £250 each.

I would hate to be relying on beef for my income when this is the best the politicians, who claim to be working to protect farm incomes, can deliver.

Looking forward, we have experts calmly predicting a 10% drop in milk price this spring. However, with the Irish Dairy Board predicting an increase to processors of 0.5p/litre from todays level for milk, a drop of 3-4% is more realistic.

Farm organisations must work to prevent dairy processors making excessive profits this spring. I wonder if these experts who expect us to accept these price drops would be so calm if their own salaries were being discussed in such a manner.

These same experts tell us that we must retain quotas, even when predicting a milk price drop of 25% between now and 2006 no matter what regime is followed. I think these so called experts will be first against the wall when the revolution comes. &#42

Cows are milking well, with daily sales the same as last winter from fewer cows, says Gerald Murphy.

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Gerald Murphy

29 May 1998

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha

(275-acre) farm in partner-

ship with his parents in

County Waterford, Ireland.

Dairying is the main

enterprise with emphasis on

milk from grass. The mainly

all-grass unit carries 110

Holstein Friesian cows.

I LEARNT something new this year when the maize was being sown – always look at the bags to check the pack size.

Our supplier has also learnt the same lesson. When I was ordering the maize seed I asked for 44-acre packs of Hussar and 4-acre packs of Semira.

The maize seed duly arrived and everything seemed to be in order. When the seeder was gone I could not figure out why there were four packs left over, as seeders are usually very accurate. The reason was that the Semira was in 1.75-acre packs and no one had noticed.

We got the maize sown over the May bank holiday weekend in the first spell of good weather for a month. The weather has been good since and the maize has done well with a quick germination and the best early growth I have seen while we have been growing the crop, which I think is mainly linked to the change in sites. This is also our first year to grow maize without any organic fertiliser.

We had all the land selected for maize tested, and the recommendations came back showing we needed K on only one field and in all the rest we used tri-ammonium phosphate (18% N, 20%P) at 50-75kg/acre plus 100kg of urea. The field that needed the K also received similar treatment.

Grass growth is up to normal at last, although we had to wait two weeks for covers to increase before we took out the brewers grains and concentrates. But when we removed the supplements, milk yield dropped more than expected, by 2-2.5 litres a day and so we are re-introducing some brewers grains and the beet pulp. It would seem to be cost effective at about £25 worth of supplement for £60 of milk. The limit for production from grass seems to be about 20-22 litres a day.

Our first-cut silage was taken on May 19, two weeks later than last years exceptionally early cut. Yields increased quickly in the week ahead of cutting but there was no heading, so we are expecting good quality silage. &#42

May is John Alpes favourite month because all the stock are out at grass.

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Gerald Murphy

1 May 1998

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha

(275-acre) farm in partner-

ship with his parents in

County Waterford on the

south-east coast of Ireland.

Dairying is the main

enterprise with emphasis on

milk from grass. The mainly

all-grass unit carries 110

Holstein Friesian cows and

also grows forage maize and

cereals for home

consumption

I was frankly jealous reading farmers weekly recently where articles were talking about grass surpluses while we have been in grass deficit. The weather for the past month has been appalling with conditions that would give rise to complaint in January and, unfortunately, we are without forage stocks.

For most of the past month we have been feeding 10-15kg of Brewers grains plus 5-6kg of concentrate. At the moment we are feeding 15kg of molasses. The concentrate portion of the mix is costing £93/t and the Brewers £18/t. While the mix is relatively cheap, it is still much more expensive a cow a day than last year when we were feeding 4kg of Brewers, plus weather-dependent quantities of maize and no concentrates.

With the weather the way it is all thoughts of maize sowing have been severely dampened. I havent seen any figures but I would guess from the poor grass growth that soil temperatures are far below the 10C that the experts talk about. This will be our latest year to sow maize since 1993. For this year all of our maize has been moved to new sites and we are expecting increased performance and drastically reduced weed control costs.

We are going to sow mainly Hussar. This will be our third year with this variety but it has served us well and it performed very well in a local trial last year with second best DM, best % starch and digestibility and a solid middle of the road yield. We will also try two others – Semira and Avenir -which have shown a higher DM yield with good DM, starch and digestibility. With a bit of luck we will get the maize sown by May 1 although with the way the weather has been going lately I wouldnt put any money on it. &#42

Cold, wet weather has meant a grass deficit for Gerald Murphy.

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Gerald Murphy

6 March 1998

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha

(275-acre) farm in partner-

ship with his parents in

County Waterford on the

south-east coast of Ireland.

Dairying is the main

enterprise with emphasis on

milk from grass. The mainly

all-grass unit carries 110

Holstein Friesian cows and

also grows forage maize and

cereals for home

consumption.

THE cows finally went out on Feb 10. At the moment they are only out for about three to four hours a day. Its a good job they went out when they did because we were just starting to get into a mastitis problem after a trouble-free winter. However once they were out to grass for three to four days all the cases were cleared up and there have been none since.

Even getting the cows out for a few hours seems to make a huge difference to the environment in the buildings. It can be quite hard to adjust the cow ration to take account of the contribution of grass to the diet – in the first few days we were consistently wrong.

We took out too much in the first few days when the cows were treating their time outside as R&R and eating very little and then as we were adjusting up they were adjusting down so that we came in one morning and they had more than 0.5t of feed left.

I think in future we will leave the diet alone for the first five days to a week after turnout and then start to make adjustments. At this stage – two and a half weeks after turnout – we have taken almost 5kg silage dry matter out of the fresh calvers diet. We will continue to take out silage until we are feeding no grass silage and then we will start to change over to a more buffer type feed.

We have finally taken the plunge and bought a computer. If memory serves me correctly the subject was first broached in 1985 so as you can see we havent rushed into anything. We bought a complete package including computer, printer and internet access for one year.

What sold us on this package was that it is Department of Agriculture- approved so all duplication of records is gone. We only have to register a calf birth once and then print off a registration form that the department will accept.

Beef premium applications can be done in seconds and are mistake-free – the computer will not allow you to send in an application for ineligible cattle or to get a tag number wrong. The programme knows the serialisation of the tags for every herd in the country and will not allow you to input an incorrect letter or digit. &#42

Gerald Murphys cows went out on Feb 10, but adjusting the ration accordingly proved to be a challenge.

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Gerald Murphy

6 February 1998

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha

(275-acre) farm in partner-

ship with his parents in

County Waterford on the

south-east coast of Ireland.

Dairying is the main

enterprise with emphasis on

milk from grass. The mainly

all-grass unit carries 110

Holstein Friesian cows and

also grows forage maize and

cereals for home

consumption.

ANYONE who suffers through this particular article every month may remember me mentioning that we were out-wintering some of the spring calving cows on some of the rented land. It has proved to be a disaster. We followed the recommendations and closed the land in early September so as to have a good bank of grass by early December, which we had but quality was, to say the least, questionable.

We were probably very optimistic and only using our short-term memory (ie we were thinking about last winter which was dry and cold – ideal for outwintering) when we planned this venture. We have now moved these animals closer to home to make feeding them easier, as it became too much of a chore to haul feed to where we were outwintering them.

A number of farmers around Ireland seemed to have good success last winter with a strategy of outwintering and feeding small amounts of silage. If last winter was close to ideal then this winter was as close as it has ever been to the other extreme and this system has failed us miserably. To be worthwhile it has to perform well in the worst year.

The losses we have incurred along with the extra work involved would have certainly made the payment on a new building to house the cows. But then its always easy to be wise in hindsight.

I was very interested to read Peter Wastenages comments on welfare codes and their interpretation. The UK is not the only place to suffer from this over zealousness. During a recent conversation with our vet he told me the Department of Agriculture had contacted him recently to question whether all the antibiotics were needed even where all the paperwork was in order. It has got to the stage where following the regulations to the letter is not enough. The department officials want to diagnose and prescribe from their offices. &#42

Gerald Murphy reckons department officials at the Irish Department of Agriculture, now want to diagnose and prescribe from their offices – following regulations to the letter doesnt appear to be enough.

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Gerald Murphy

9 January 1998

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha (275-acre) farm in partnership

with his parents in County Waterford on the south-east

coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with

emphasis on milk from grass. The mainly all-grass unit

carries 110 Holstein Friesian cows and also grows forage

maize and cereals for home consumption.

I have never been as glad that we owned a generator as I was on Christmas Eve. It was nice to find out how on the ball the weather men are (ie not very). As I was feeding out on Christmas Eve morning I heard the first storm warning.

At this stage, the front loader jib was swaying over and back by 6in to 1ft, in the teeth of what must have been the 90mph winds they warned us about some three hours later.

It sometimes seems as if the weather forecast has changed into one of two things:

1) A weather review: When they give us a scientific explanation as to why the electricity went off and why half the sheds in the country now have big chunks of their roofs missing – after it happens.

2) Dublin weather: If its not going to happen to our fair capital, its not going to happen at all. The rest of us out in the boonies can just expect whatever we see coming over the horizon.

We should not complain too much, however, as we seem to have got off very lightly compared with many people. The only damage we sustained is our lost roof light and two slates off the dwelling house.

A number of farmers have lost complete spans of roofing and in one particular incident the roof of a dwelling house started to go and caused the walls of the house to crack. These are only some of the local stories – it seems to be much of the same over most of the southern half of the country.

Now, after all this doom and gloom and feeling sorry for oneself, I would like to extend good wishes to all the readers and the best of luck for 1998.n

Storm warnings came a little late for Gerald Murphy on Christmas Eve, luckily the farm owns a generator and suffered very little damage.

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Gerald Murphy

12 December 1997

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha

(275-acre) farm in partner-

ship with his parents in

County Waterford on the

south-east coast of Ireland.

Dairying is the main

enterprise with emphasis on

milk from grass. The mainly

all-grass unit carries 110

Holstein Friesian cows and

also grows forage maize and

cereals for home

consumption.

OUR cows were finally housed on Nov 24 and we had to abandon 18 days grazing. If the remaining area to be grazed was drier we would have tried to graze it. The weather has started to dry up again and we may yet turn out the stale cows again to grass it off, but the fresh cows look to be in until the spring – hopefully early February.

The benefits of making top-quality silage are really being seen on the farm this year. Even though it is slightly more expensive to make, intake and performance are much better, but you have to allow these better forages perform.

Last year we had first cut of very similar quality but fed far too much concentrate and because of this we cost ourselves a lot of money. We had forage intakes of around 11kg, excluding 2kg DM from brewers grains.

This year we are getting forage intakes of 15kg excluding 2kg DM from brewers grains. We are getting forage intakes of 14kg DM, and while performance a cow is back this year by about 2 litres, concentrates are back from 9.8 to 6.8kg.

Last years additional milk would pay for the extra concentrates, but we would be giving a miller an extra 41p a cow a day to get an extra 15p for ourselves and this extra 15p would be before any vet bills.

I havent gone through the health records in any detail but there always seemed to be a couple of cows being milked into the churn throughout last winter, mainly with feet problems which need antibiotic treatment.

This year, even though it is early days yet, we have had no difficulties. I havent even seen any cows walking tenderly.

With that much said we are more or less on target to supply our main quota and slightly ahead on our winter milk quota. If we were running under quota our perspective might well be different, when milk in the tank is milk in the tank no matter how marginally it was put there, especially if it is on leased quota.n

Gerald Murphy is seeing the benefits of quality silage, with more milk, reduced concentrates and fewer health concerns.

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Gerald Murphy

14 November 1997

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha (275-acre) farm in partner-ship

with his parents in County Waterford on the south-east

coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with

emphasis on milk from grass. The mainly all-grass unit

carries 110 Holstein Friesian cows and also grows forage

maize and cereals for home consumption

SINCE the end of October the weather has been deteriorating rapidly.

Fresh cows have been housed at night since Nov 4, but the stale cows will stay out for the foreseeable future. The fresh cows certainly benefited from housing, mainly because of the weather but also because of the deterioration in grass quality. Top quality silage – first-cut – is a better feed for fresh calved cows than grazed grass at this time of the year. But if grazing conditions are good, grazed grass can make up over half of the ration for stale cows.

At the moment all other stock are still out. By the end of the week we hope to have the weanlings housed, we are just finishing some repairs and adjustments to their yard and feed fence.

Under our rearing system, other than when they are young calves, this four-and-a-half month stage is the only time that we have control over their diet. The rest of the time they are more influenced by the weather and grass growth than by any decisions we take. We can and do try to control their progress outdoors with supplements and by controlling their grazing rotation but indoors control is total. We try to make up the best value ration which will grow bone rather than fat and also develop the rumen capacity.

Replacement heifers will remain out until Dec 1. At the moment they are receiving no supplements but this will change should the weather deteriorate further.

Our two oldest teaser bulls will be going to the factory soon. They are coming up on two-and-a-half years old and are starting to get a bit rowdy. They are simply not worth any risk and their two replacements are well up to the job now.n

Gerald Murphys replacement heifers will stay out until December 1, but they will be given supplements before then if the weather deteriorates.

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Gerald Murphy

17 October 1997

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha (275-acre) farm in partnership

with his parents in County Waterford on the south-east

coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with

emphasis on milk from grass. The mainly all-grass unit

carries 110 Holstein Friesian cows and also grows forage

maize and cereals for home consumption.

IN the end our maize was all cut together because cutting was delayed by bad weather. The results from the plastic were not as good as expected. Allowing for the difference in the weather between this year and last year bulk was well down, but we had a better cob and are expecting a good starch level in the analysis.

However, better analysis will not justify the cost of the plastic if the extra tonnes of dry matter are not there. The plastic cover will have to put an extra 1.1-1.2t of grain/acre into the crop to compete with barley coming off the combine at £72/t. As far as we are concerned the performance wasnt even close to this.

We havent made up our minds definitely about whether to use plastic next year as there seemed to be so much research work backing it its use that the fault may lie with us. One step we will definitely be taking is to change some of the sites. We sowed four acres in ley ground this year and the weed control cost £15/acre as against almost £60/acre on the fields in their fifth and sixth year in maize.

We now have 30 autumn calvers milking, and they are now on three quarters of their winter ration plus grazing. They are grazing by day and in on a sacrifice paddock close to the feed shed at night. They are getting 15kg DM from the TMR and we hope they are picking up 5kg outdoors. The stale cows are getting 15kg DM of maize plus 1kg of wheat and they seem to be going along well. The stale cows are still at grass day and night and will be hopefully until the end of the month.

We will be starting the last rotation on Oct 15 and it should last us until Nov 20. The milkers will be followed by a group of dry cows who will be made to bare off the paddocks very severely. At this stage all of the stock will be housed except for a group of around 30 dry cows who are being moved to an out-farm to graze 17 acres of stored grass which we hope should last them into the new year.n

The last grazing rotation started on Oct 15, and should last until Nov 20. Dry cows will follow the milkers to bare off paddocks, says Gerald Murphy.

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Gerald Murphy

22 August 1997

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha (275-acre) farm in partnership with his parents in County Waterford on the south-east coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise, with emphasis on milk from grass. The mainly all-grass unit carries 110 Holstein Friesian cows and also grows forage maize and cereals for home consumption.

FIRST, I should thank Angela for stepping in last month; I only read her contribution just before I sat down to write this and she did well.

I have been on holiday in Australia for the past three weeks and while there spent a lot of time as a car passenger, which gave me ample opportunity to observe Aussie agriculture from a distance.

It is different to say the least. But one thing we do have in common is an obsession with the weather, though in Ireland ours is from a different direction. While we were getting washed out in mid-summer, they were crying out for rain in mid-winter. There was talk when I was there of crops being lost to the drought, in their equivalent of January.

On the dairying front, I learned something interesting. In some of the Australian states, up to half of the milk produced is subject to a quota, with correspondingly high prices. I did not find any milk price league/survey in any of the farming Press but I did find out that the milk produced under the quota receives a 20c/litre (10p/litre) premium over milk for export.

Assuming that the rest of their production is at world prices, which I understand to be about 10p/litre, then up to half of Aussie production is at prices similar to the UK and Ireland. This came as a surprise, as I had been led to believe that all of the Cairns group countries were producing free of price support.

On the other side of the coin, while beef prices in this part of the world are bad, I think Aussie beef farmers would kill for them. A particular market report that caught my eye was one for 230kg weanlings selling for £100. &#42

During his recent holiday, Gerald Murphy was surprised to find that up to half the milk produced in some Australian states is subject to quota – with correspondingly high prices – rather than being free of price support.

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Gerald Murphy

7 March 1997

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha (275-acre) farm in partner-ship with his parents in County Waterford on the south-east coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with emphasis on milk from grass. The mainly all-grass unit carries 110 Holstein Friesian cows and also grows forage maize and cereals for home.

IN MY last column I wrote about new farm roadways we have been laying but I didnt have a final figure for the cost a metre. The final cost was £4.50/metre for 5m wide tracks.

The milkers have now been out to grass for the past three weeks, but it is only in the past week that they have really started to graze hard. They are now on the silage area on the main farm and they should be finished there on Mar 10. This area will then receive its first split N in urea form and be closed on this date. The first split will be 46 units/acre. We would hope to apply the second split between Apr 5 and 10.

We are after starting three-times-a-day milking in an attempt to make up what looks like being a 2% shortfall in projected milk production. It looks as though my projections were too ambitious and also the February calvers were slow to calve down, carrying a good bit of time and then were slow to get into their milk.

With more than a third of the cows presently milking being February calvers, their performance is having a big impact on production. If the response to three-times-a-day milking is similar to that which was experienced by some local farmers who have tried it in similar circumstances the shortfall should be clawed back.

After talking to a friend who milked three-times-a-day to make up a shortfall a couple of years ago, we decided to take on a relief milker to do the night milkings. He did the night milking himself and he described three-times-a-day milking as being very effective at two things: The first is increased milk production and the second is the worlds best contraceptive. "Youll be knackered," he said.n

Gerald Murphys milkers have been out at grass for the last three weeks, but have only started to graze hard within the last week on the silage area.

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Gerald Murphy

7 February 1997

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 107ha (275-acre) farm inpartnership with his parents in County Waterford on the south-east coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with emphasis on milk from grass. The mainly all-grass unit carries 110 Holstein Friesian cows and also grows forage maizeand cereals for home consumption.

ITS BEEN a very busy start to the new year. We have been able to secure a seven-year lease on 195,000 litres and 36.8ha. The land is 22.5km from our home unit which excludes it from use as grazing area for milking cows.

Instead we intend to use it as a rearing unit for youngstock, but for the first two years we will not have enough stock to fill this area and so we intend to sow half of it down to cereals; spring wheat is planned for this year.

We have also been extending and improving our farm roadways in the past month – between 1000 and 1100m of roadway was laid from scratch or improved.

Of the 750m of new road laid, 350m is to a group of paddocks previously used for grazing youngstock. Because of increased cow numbers, this is now needed as grazing area for cows.

The remaining 400m of new road is on an out-farm, and its main purpose is to give better access for machinery in wet conditions.

The improved sections – 350m – had deteriorated badly in the past few years and needed virtually as much work as the new roads.

So far the roads have cost about £2.70/m for 4-5m wide road. This is for clearance and laying in hardcore. The stone for the roads comes from our own quarry which is certainly a big saving on having to buy in hardcore.

And theyre much less complicated than some I have been reading about in FW recently. We simply skin off the sod, lay in, and level off 45-60cm of hardcore on top – depending on the situation – on top of which we lay a 5cm screen of quarry dust. These roadways are cheap and simple, and we have found that they are perfectly OK from an animal welfare point of view.

While most of the UK was still in the grip of the big freeze, a thaw had set in this part of the world. Our consultant convinced us to spread some N, the first of which went out on Jan 10. All of the grass area has now received 40 units N/acre. Thankfully the man in the suit seems to have been right and we have had a good response. We are hoping to turn the fresh calvers out on Feb 23 onto the driest paddocks.n

Gerald Murphys farm roadways have been renovated and extended, with 750m of new road being layed and 350m renovated.

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Gerald Murphy

3 May 1996

Gerald Murphy

WEATHER-WISE the past month has been a disaster. Grass growth levels were about 50% below normal in the first two weeks of April and soil temperatures up to two degrees below last year (9C against 11C).

The milking cows have been out day and night since April 8. Apart from 14 autumn-born calves all other stock are still housed. Our carry-over of grass silage has diminished to such an extent that I am hoping I will have enough to carry the stock over until the end of the week.

The cows are presently averaging 25 litres, which is quite satisfactory considering almost one-third of them are into their last 100 days of lactation. They are being fed 6kg of concentrate and 15-25kg of maize silage depending on the weather.

Preparations for the maize harvest have been slow but at the time of writing we are almost ready for the contractor. We do our own slurry spreading as well as ploughing 35 acres. This might not seem much on a specialist arable farm. But on a dairy farm with a lot of stock still housed and both tractors involved in the feeding of the stock, it can be hard to get one free at the same time that conditions are suitable for ploughing.

During a spell of wet weather, one section of our farm roadway proved a miserable experience for cows walking along it as well as for whoever had to milk the cows afterwards. We redesigned the paddocks in this section of the farm and this roadway was part of the plan. We never surfaced it properly but got away with it last year because the weather was so dry throughout the grazing season. But this will be a priority job as soon as the maize is sown. &#42

Grass growth is 50% below the normal level for the first two weeks of April at Gerald Murphys (left) 71ha (175-acre) farm near Waterford.

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Gerald Murphy

9 February 1996

Gerald Murphy

THE great plans we had for work to be carried out in January never came to fruition because of bad weather. That is, it rained twice, once for 15 days and once for 13 days. Hopefully the worst is over for this winter.

At the moment we are looking forward to and planning to turn out the milkers on Feb 12.

The cows will be let out first for three to four hours after morning milking. They will start by grazing the silage area down to a height of 5-6cm on the main farm and go from there to the driest part of the farm. These two blocks should see us through to mid-March.

The remaining area will be rationed to last until mid-April when grass growth should hopefully match demand from the cows stocked at five livestock units/ha (2 units/acre).

To make this system work grass cover will have to be assessed before turnout and then weekly to take account of new growth.

The amount of grass allocated to the milking cows on a daily basis can be adjusted to avoid both undergrazing or finishing the first rotation before Apr 15. If either of these mistakes were to be made then there will be serious knock on effects for the rest of this years grazing season.

Under-grazing leads to deterioration in pasture quality by the end of the third rotation (early June) due to tufts or poor quality, stemmy material left on the paddocks.

Finishing the first rotation before mid-April means that grass supply plays "catch up" with demand for much of the early part of the grazing season. As a result extra supplements are needed to maintain rotation length, an unnecessary cost.

By the time I write my next article I hope that the heaviest part of the winter housing workload will be over. Heres to hoping. &#42

Gerald Murphy is looking forward to turning cows out from Feb 12. They will start by grazing the silage area down to a height of 5cm to 6cm.

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Gerald Murphy

12 January 1996

Gerald Murphy

ALL in all 1995 was a good year. For the first year since 1991 we have filled our milk quota. This was due to a TB breakdown where we lost over half our herd. It has taken this long to recover.

It was also an extremely good year for our maize crop after two very poor years where the crop failed to reach anything approaching maturity. The analysis results only came back today (see table above).

This latest analysis compares with starch levels too low to measure and DM of under 20% in the past two years. It has transformed maize from a crop we were thinking of abandoning to a crop we now consider to be an important part of our winter feeding programme for the dairy herd.

Enough gloating about last year. The breeding programme began on December 15. The main bulls for this year are Wade, Zebo and Lexus. We have also bought semen from two other bulls, Triangel and Elation, in smaller quantities for use on cows which we expect to have a lower conception rate than we would consider acceptable when using straws costing £35/dose. The three main bulls are costing an average of £35; the two reserves cost £10 and £12/dose.

We are also hoping to spread slurry and begin ploughing the maize area this month. An early start worked well for the crop last year, so fingers crossed for this year.


Maize silage analysis

&#8226 DM28.1%

&#8226 Starch35%

&#8226 ME12.1%

Gerald Murphy considers that this years maize silage at 28% DM and 12% ME will make a valuable contribution to the dairy ration.

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Gerald Murphy

15 December 1995

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 71ha (175-acre) farm in partner-ship with his parents in county Waterford on the south-east coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with emphasis on milk from grass. The unit carries 85 Holstein Friesian cows and followers and finishes about 20 bull calves a year as 18-month beef. The mainly all-grass unit also grows forage maize and cereals for home consumption.

THERE is an old Irish saying: "When you think you are on the pigs back, you are only under its belly." Loosely translated, this means when things are going too smoothly – look out.

On our farm this was borne out in the past fortnight. There we were coming to the end of a beautiful and productive autumn. The grazing programme was going on apace but nearing completion, there was plenty of good grass in the system and the relatively dry weather allowed us to graze out each paddock completely. Fresh milkers were followed by stale milkers, then in-calf heifers and lastly dry cows. The dry cow group was made up of all cows in the first five weeks of the dry period.

All paddocks were being grazed to the butt, which allows in air and light, aids tillering and gives a beautiful thick regrowth. It is important at this stage that no further grazing takes place on these paddocks, as it would adversely affect recovery.

The cubicles were still empty at night, the fresh calvers "out-lying" in a sacrifice paddock by night after feeding. The autumn reseeds had taken and were growing well.

The winter wheat, 20 acres of silage ground that needs renewing, was sown under perfect condition and is just emerging (Nov 24).

Then Dad goes off his food for a couple of days, and the pain gets worse. My sister Angela, home from college for the weekend, takes him to the doctor. From there he is sent to the regional hospital for an emergency operation (appendix) and a 12-day stay.

The rains come and the cows and weanlings are housed on Dec 2. To say the intervening period was busy would be an understatement. "But alls well that ends well", as they say.

Dad is back home again and is recuperating. We were lucky in being able to employ a good relief. As in all such emergencies "Mam" was indispensable.

But life goes on apace. The new breeding season is almost on us and we await delivery of this new seasons semen. &#42

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Gerald Murphy

30 June 1995

Gerald Murphy

Gerald Murphy runs a 71ha (175-acre) farm in partner-ship with his parents in county Waterford on the south-east coast of Ireland. Dairying is the main enterprise with emphasis on milk from grass. The unit carries 85 Holstein Friesian cows and followers and finishes about 20 bull calves a year as 18-month beef. The mainly all-grass unit also grows 13ha (32 acres) of forage maize and cereals for home consumption.

AS THIS is my first article for farmers weekly, I will give an overview of our farm/business in terms of the type and size of the different enterprises, management practices and our plans for the future.

I farm in partnership with my parents in County Waterford on the south-east coast of Ireland. I am commencing my fourth year in full-time farming at home, having completed college and work elsewhere. I have two third level qualifications, the first is the Irish equivalent of the National Certificate (NCA) in Agriculture from Multyfarmham Agricultural College and the second is an ANCA in dairy herd management from Reaseheath College in Cheshire.

Our farm could be described as mixed, but all other enterprises are secondary and we feel, complementary, to dairying. Last year, we supplied 470,000 litres, but this year our intention is to produce 500,000 litres. This supply will depend upon the availability of quota for temporary leasing. This milk will be supplied by an 82-cow herd with an average yield of 6100 litres. Our main emphasis is to produce milk as cheaply as possible from grazed grass.

All of our cows are served with Holstein bulls by AI and this means that the value of the bull calves is low, especially for calves born between Apr 1 and Sep 1. All bull calves born between these dates are finished as 18-month bull beef. This usually amounts to approximately 15 a year. This year, however, we discovered a new market for some of the bulls as vasectomised teasers.

Twenty acres of cereals, usually wheat/oats are also grown. This year, we have sown 10 acres of spring wheat and 10 acres of spring oats. Usually the cereals grown are for home use – however this year both crops may be sold. The oats will be sold for the crop is grown under an oat flake contract. The wheat may be sold if it achieves milling standard. The earnings from these crops will be used to buy back good quality feed grade wheat. &#42

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