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Richard Hinchion

23 August 2002

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

IT LOOKS as though we are only going to get one week of summer weather this year and that came and went in mid-July.

In mid-August, it continued to be changeable and blustery.

I am writing this article the day before going on our family holidays to the, hopefully, sun drenched south-east. I cant wait for a break from milking cows and checking stock. So I hope you wont mind me being upbeat in my article.

We ensiled 8ha (20 acres) of second cut silage on July 31 in ideal conditions. Sugar levels were low at 2-2.25%, but no additive was used. We reckon yield was about 22t/ha (9t/acre) of fresh material.

We now have plenty of silage for this year, not to mention the 50 round bales of silage taken during excess growth.

Teagasc believes there will be a fodder shortage in certain parts of the country due to a wet May and June. Farms are trying to make up the fodder shortfall with alternative feeds and concentrates.

By early August, grass growth took off around the farm. Total grass cover is now too high, as grass is running ahead of cows and is becoming stemmy. I am round-baling 1.2ha (3 acres) of strong grass to bring the rotation back to 26 days.

The 24-36 hour allocation of grass to cows is working well and they have adjusted quickly. Our protein results have gone up to 3.39% since the changeover, an increase of 0.13%. Butterfat is back to 3.49%, which is unexplainable. Overall, our butterfat percentage in July was 3.48 and protein was 3.33%.

After the holidays our annual TB test is due as well as lepto and salmonella vaccinations. Cows are yielding 21 litres on 1kg of pulp.

The bulling period ended on July 31. We extended it by one week to get the scanned cows back in calf.

Grass quality is excellent, due to tight topping across the whole farm in the last rotation.

During a discussion group meeting on the farm, we decided against reseeding one of our silage fields and instead intend to graze it next year, improving the number of tillers. &#42

Richard Hinchion is looking forward to a break from the daily routine as he takes a holiday with his family.

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Richard Hinchion

24 July 2002

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

WE are supposed to be in the middle of summer, but we are still awaiting for it to arrive. I can safely say that 2002 is an " anus horriblus" as regards farming and the weather.

Up to mid-July grass growth rates were 20-30% below normal, so grass supply has been a delicate balance. The sun is now appearing more often between the showers and this is showing an improvement in grass growth.

Early cutting of silage on Jun 1 afforded us the chance to spread all the slurry, but it has taken six weeks for the aftermath to be fit for grazing. We plan to cut a smaller second cut this year, releasing more grass into the system.

Now grass is starting to take off and aftermaths are in the system, we plan to give 24-36 hours allocation of grass to cows to see if we can improve our protein % for the rest of the year. Our June results were 3.58% Butterfat and 3.3% protein, yielding a net milk price of 27.14 cents/litre (17.3p/litre). Cows are averaging 26 litres on 2kg of pulp mix ration.

We are determined to get the grass quality right by topping paddocks, even though it will slow down the grazing rotation. We are also spreading some compound fertiliser, as we feel our badly poached ground needs P and K to help root development and tillering.

We are planning to finish breeding on July 22. We scanned 10 cows we had doubts about and three proved not in calf. We injected them, so hopefully all 48 cows will be in-calf by end of July.

Our young calves have had a pneumonia problem during the wet weather, taking its toll on weaker calves. We housed them for two weeks and fed them well to beef them up. But this did the trick and they are back outdoors.

Now the kids are on school holidays, I hope the sun will shine so that we can go to Garretstown beach or away for a day trip. &#42

Grass growth rates are making grazing management tricky

for Richard Hinchion.

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Richard Hinchion

28 June 2002

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

THE weather is still as bad as ever, and may be even worse. We had the wettest May in history, poor ground conditions, poor grass growth and cold nights. This led to all my beef cattle and calves being housed for a week in mid-May.

Cows were housed after three hours grazing at night time. Fortunately we have plenty of silage and round bales, which was some consolation. Georoid, our eldest son, received his first Holy Communion, which was a milestone in his life and a joyous occasion for the family. It also managed to take my mind off waterlogged paddocks, stemmy grass and low proteins.

As we approach mid-June, little has changed. All animals are out full time, but many cattle and calves are still indoors. It looks as though we are paying for the dry, mild winter last year.

However, cows are yielding 26 litres a head on June 15, on 3kg of a pulp based ration. We were feeding 5kg in the wet weather. Our milk protein level is poor, with one test as low as 3.18% in late May. Overall we had 3.57% butterfat and 3.23% protein for May.

Hopefully, the milk price wont drop anymore. Our net April milk price was 17.6p/litre. Our co-op, Dairygold, is giving £12.80/t allowance on all dairy/beef rations bought in the month of May.

We sold our seven cull cows privately at home for £331.38, which released more grass into the rotation during the wet weather.

Thanks to my good wife, Helen, constantly hounding me to cut the silage, we managed to get it ensiled on June 1. The weather was good and ground conditions were okay after the vast rainfall. We were lucky, as there is still a lot of first cut silage growing in mid-June.

Having finished the silage, my only and elder sister, Anne, lost her battle against cancer at the young age of 48. This was a major blow to our family and we are still coming to terms with her loss. It proves one thing – your health is your wealth – and all our farming problems fade into insignificance. May she rest in peace. &#42

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Richard Hinchion

3 May 2002

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

MIDWAY through April and we are pushing cows on with lots of grass.

We ended the year about 400 litres over quota. Now cows are milking 30.5 litres a day on 2.5kg of a sugar beet pulp-based ration costing £137/t.

Our butterfat and protein percentages up to mid-April were 3.63% and 3.27%, respectively. The bad news is that the co-op has dropped the March milk price by 0.34p/litre. This means the standard milk price is now UK16.8p a litre. We hope our March price/ litre will be more than 17p. But the outlook on the dairy markets is bleak, as we face the peak milk months, with more cuts likely.

All cows are calved since Apr 9, with just one dead calf. We have sold five of our older good milking cows to bring down the herds age-profile. These cows fetched £591 each, so now we will milk 48 cows for 2002.

About 40 calves have been at grass since late March. One group are weaned and the other group are on milk once a day. Both groups receive about 1kg of ration daily. They can come in by night, as we experienced cold, frosty nights during April. We plan to rear 45 calves this year, including 19 replacement heifers. The rest will be sold at the mart.

Grass growth slowed down due to cold easterly winds in the first half of April. So we decided to graze some of the beef ground to extend the first rotation to late April. This will give second rotation grass a chance to thicken up.

All silage ground has been closed since early April and fertilised. We hope to cut less first cut silage due to a good stock remaining from 2001.

We sold off 20 of our 27 bullocks privately during Easter and were pleased with the price. They weighed an average of 335kg at 13-14 months old. All remaining animals were put to grass before Easter, which was great.

We are now preparing for another breeding season. Cows have been tail painted and preheats recorded. We start breeding on May 1. We are looking at brochures and picking out bulls that suit us. Our plan is to hold milk at 6356-6810 litres a cow and push protein beyond 3.4%. &#42

Richard Hinchion has had to bring grass reserved for beef cattle into the dairy rotation, to compensate for slow growth rates.

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Richard Hinchion

14 December 2001

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

AT the recent Irish Cattle Breeders Federation National Breeding Conference, the minister of Agriculture and Food officially launched a new cattle breeding database. This is a major milestone for the industry.

It has come about by milk recording and AI organisations, herdbooks and farmers pooling information into one large database. I have been participating in this initiative for the past two years on a pilot basis. So I was asked to speak on it at the conference from a farmers point of view.

This month will see 7000 farmers in milk recording herds receiving their Animal Event Pack. This new book will replace the need to fill in birth cards for national calf registration, birth cards for pedigree registration, cow enrolment forms for milk recording and calving survey forms for young test bulls.

We will now receive newer and better reports on our herd including milk recording, mastitis, calving, breeding and fertility.

Our farm was chosen by ICBF to shoot a video explaining the new Animal Events System, so our milking parlour and kitchen/office will be seen up and down the country this month in Teagasc offices.

Back to reality. We dried off the last 31 cows on Nov 30 and they will receive a lean diet of straw and silage for seven days.

We housed the in-calf heifers, some first calvers and 19 replacement calvers on Nov 17. This group are on ad lib silage and a 14% protein ration. Cows were out nearly full time before drying off, which was great.

Before housing, all animals were dosed and treated for lice and clipped along their backs to reduce sweating indoors. Cows will be divided according to condition score and calving date and fed accordingly.

An early Christmas present came our way when we received 12,000 litres of milk allocation due to foot-and-mouth and being unable to sell heifers in spring time. This will help our quota situation greatly.

Due to falling world market prices of skim and other products, we had to take a 0.35p/litre drop in price for October milk. So now the standard price is 19p/litre at 3.6% fat and 3.3% protein. We received a net price for October milk of 21.4p/litre. &#42

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Richard Hinchion

16 November 2001

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

BELIEVE it or not, we are experiencing fabulous autumn weather.

So much so that it was the warmest October for the past 45 years, with temperatures up by 2C.

This mild, dry spell brought a surge in grass growth with average rates of 30kgDM/ha.

This helped build our grass wedge. As I write, on Nov 2, cows are still grazing full-time, shortening grass in preparation for next spring. We may have to consider regrazing some paddocks closed in early October, as they have high grass cover. To date, we have fed no silage or brought animals indoors at night. This must be a record for us.

We dried off 16 cows including early-calving heifers. Some high cell count young cows were treated with antibiotics 2-3 days before receiving dry cow tubes. These were dried on grass, which is a bonus.

The 31 milking cows are receiving 1.5kg of 16% protein ration and yielding 15.7 litres a day. Cows produced 500 litres each for October at 4.19% fat and 3.76% protein. We plan to milk up to Dec 1 before completely drying off, as quota is beginning to bite.

We received a net milk price for September of 20.6p/litre at 4.03% fat and 3.61% protein, but reckon our 2001 protein will be back on 2000s figure of 3.39%.

I sold my eight 18-month old bullocks in early October. They averaged 505kg, making UK78p/kg, which I was happy with.

We began feeding in-calf heifers on 1kg of winter ration at £101/t in mid-October. These will remain outside until mid-November.

Calves are also receiving 1kg of ration and grazing a reseeded silage paddock which rabbits also grazed. Weather was ideal and grass has grown well.

We are awaiting silage test results, which I expect to show high quality silage, but I will wait and see.

I have just been invited to speak at a national dairy breeding conference in late November. Preparation for the talk will keep me occupied this month. &#42

Excellent autumn weather has kept grass growing, so cows have remained out full-time well into November, says Richard Hinchion.

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Richard Hinchion

19 October 2001

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

THE weather in September was beautiful, so good that we experienced a drought on our farm and no grass growth for 10-14 days. Now, in early October, we are experiencing vast amounts of rainfall, up to 25mm (1in) some days, but mild so far.

Our grass quality has been excellent, with high dry matter contents making animals happy. But grass covers are diminishing rapidly because of lack of growth in mid-September. Nitrogen spreading stopped on Sept 25, so round bales may have to be fed to lengthen our rotation up to 40 days. The last grazing rotation started on Oct 5 and cows are cleaning fields well so far.

The herd produced 622 litres/day in September and butterfat and protein shot up to 4.04% and 3.61%, respectively. Now they are yielding 18 litres/cow a day.

Our quota is also filling rapidly, so we sold seven older in-calf cows to reduce numbers for next year and first lactation heifers and thin cows will be dried off from mid-October. This should give them a chance to build up condition score and because they will dry off outdoors, infections should be reduced.

Our reseeded silage field has suffered from drought stress, which was compounded by my bunny friends grazing it freely. So I took drastic action. I organised for my friend Jim Curtain, from the local gun club, Peter Lyons and his four-wheel drive, and myself to shoot rabbits in the evenings – our tally was 520. So with rain and less rabbits, the grass seed is starting to close in and we hope to manage a light grazing in November.

All calves are receiving 1.5kg of citrus pulp and in-calf heifers will get some supplementation in mid-October to keep them on target weight.

With winter fast approaching, we are putting finishing touches to winter housing to be ready if the weather gets much worse.

Now nights are getting longer, I have enrolled on a basic computer course organised by Teagasc to improve my lack of skills. Next I will have to start learning how to type faster. &#42

Richard Hinchion is considering feeding round bales of silage to lengthen the grazing rotation.

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Richard Hinchion

24 August 2001

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

AS WE approach mid-August, I am glad to report we suffered no drought in the July/August period, unlike last year.

The weather has been mixed sunshine, showers and cool winds by night. Overall these conditions have favoured good grass growth on the farm.

Next week we will be going on our family holidays and boy, am I looking forward to getting away from cows, calves and grass. We are going to Trabolgan Holiday Village in East Cork – 50 miles away. This place has lots of facilities for kids such as bowling, playgrounds, waves, swimming pool and quads.

Back to farming, we managed to cut our 10ha (25 acres) of second cut silage on Jul 22. Sugars were marginal at 2.5%, but we used no additive. We immediately spread 32-40kg/ha (40-50 units/acre) of nitrogen for aftermaths which should be grazed in late August. No slurry was spread as tanks are empty, following first cut.

We are building a wedge of grass for autumn by extending the rotation to 30 days. We topped some stemmy grazed paddocks and dressed them with 24kg N/ha (30 units N/acre).

With our extra rented ground this year, we seized the opportunity to reseed a 3ha (7.5 acre) silage paddock which is cut twice yearly.

This was ploughed shortly after the silage crop was removed and levelled 4-5 times using a heavy roller. Lime and fertiliser was applied and grass sown on Aug 3 with a one pass system. With good growing conditions we should manage a light grazing with youngstock in October.

Cows are still yielding 23 litres each a day. We have reduced feed to 1kg/head/day of citrus pulp due to surplus grass. However, protein remains stuck at 3.28%; hopefully this will drastically improve.

We sold 10 of our late calves ex-farm in July so we now have to winter 49 calves. Four cull cows were sold to the special purchase scheme. This new scheme also involves grading cows for conformation and fat for payment purposes. Overall they averaged UK£340/cow. Gone are the days when you could get UK£1.60/kg for cull cows. &#42

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Richard Hinchion

27 July 2001

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

NOW summer is here and our kids are on holiday, I decided to write this article early in the morning, while the world sleeps. I may think better, so here goes.

We have passed the halfway mark in 2001. What a difficult first half it was with a wet spring, delayed turnout, slow growth, F&M, extra stock and then, believe it or not, a drought. Lets hope the second half will consist of good autumn grass growth, mild dry winter weather and buoyant milk and beef markets.

Currently, we have plenty of grass ahead of us. We even baled 2ha (5 acres) of grazing grass this weekend to keep the rotation at 25 days. We are topping most of the paddocks after grazing and dressing them with 44kg/ha (35 units/acre) of nitrogen to set them up for autumn.

We planned to cut 10ha (25 acres), of second cut silage this week but the weather forecast is bad. When it improves we will cut immediately, so silage ground can be set up for autumn. One thing that will happen, regardless of the weather, is the end of our 12-week breeding season on Jul 20.

The bull will be put on long holidays for the rest of the year. We still hope to beat our target for a 10% infertile rate which equates to six out of 55 cows. Cows and in-calf heifers will receive their lepto booster vaccine and will be treated for flies with a pour-on.

Our 55 cows are yielding 24.5 litres/day on 1.5kg of citrus pulp costing £110/t. However, we are concerned about protein levels which were 3.3% in May, 3.28% in June and 3.25% to date in July. A number of producers I have spoken to have similar protein trends and we cannot explain it, even on unlimited grass intakes. My butterfat percentage has jumped by 0.2%. We should receive UK18.36p/litre for our June milk.

Looking at cow performance for the first six months of 2001 shows milk yield at 3360 litres/cow, which is down 227 litres compared with 2000, while concentrate use is on a par at 440kg/cow. However, milk price this year is about UK1p/litre better. &#42

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Richard Hinchion

13 October 2000

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of

concentrate

LOOKING back, September has been a mild month and despite much rain in the second half, we recorded grass growth rates in excess of 60kg DM/ha in the first half, which is ahead of the 10-year average.

Towards the end of month it slipped back to 40kg DM/ha due to cold, frosty nights. These growth rates are much better than we had in late July and early August.

We cut 2.4ha (6 acres) for baled silage to reduce our rotation to 30 days in early September. With hindsight, I should have cut 1ha (2.4 acres) more, as we now have a good wedge of grass built up for winter.

Currently, cows are on a 40-day rotation, but the ground is wet and this is leading to poor grass use. We plan to start our last rotation on Oct 10 and hope the weather improves so that paddocks will be cleaned up for spring.

Our cows are now yielding 17 litres on 2kg of citrus pulp and grass. We feel it makes good sense to feed this, considering the current milk price and we are on target to meet quota.

We achieved 590 litres/cow in September at 4.01% butterfat and 3.52% protein. We received a further 0.3p/litre (IR 2p/gal) increase in August milk price. So our milk price for August was 19p/litre (IR£1.12/gal)for 3.86% butterfat and 3.42% protein.

This month will see us clipping cows udders and tails for winter, along with hoof-paring lame cows.

Weanlings and in-calf heifers will be fed 1kg of concentrate from now so they meet target weight. I plan to weigh a cross-section of both groups to see how they are performing and we will test two cuts of silage to calculate a winter feed programme for various animal groups.

I was stunned to read the disastrous fertility figures from the Dairy Research Unit at Moorepark, Cork. Over 20% of cows were infertile in both medium and high genetic merit herds.

This is worrying because these animals were well fed on grass and concentrates. Lets hope my infertility rate stays at 10% and doesnt start surging upwards like our inflation rate this year. &#42

Richard Hinchion wishes he had cut another 1ha of big-baled silage.

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