Farmer Focus: Hoping our system is resilient enough this year

We’ve enjoyed May and all it entails; dropping strip wires, sunshine, the breeding season in full flow, sunshine, the smell of cut grass, sunshine, lazy cows…did I say sunshine?

Sunshine has certainly been a feature of the past month. Us farmers don’t ask for much but a bit of balance in the weather would be just great.

The daily rain check of online weather forecasters so early in the summer has given me flashbacks of last year’s drought and a slight prickle of unease.

Our aim to build a resilient grass-based farm system must revolve around sustainable stocking rates with less reliance on bought-in feed. Following through on this we have trimmed stock back to the bare essentials across all ages of cattle.

See also: How once-a-day milking can be as profitable as twice

Resilience in a farm system can have many meanings. When I started farming, resilience meant the ability to manage fluctuations in milk price, but now it could also encompass withstanding fluctuations in weather extremes or even in labour availability.

It all comes back to the three pillars of sustainability, the economic, social and environmental foundations that farming systems simply have to be built upon in order for the next generations to farm.

At the time of writing, we are currently in our fourth week of the breeding season and 99% of cows and 100% of heifers have been served.

The vasectomised bull is running with the cows to help pick up repeats and we have moved from dairy to beef AI since the end of the third week.

Our fertility targets are 65% conception rate to first service in the cows and 75% in the heifers.

Using a simple one shot prostaglandin protocol, all the heifers were served in 12 days and now they are running with the bull.

The herd is currently being allocated 16kgDM of grass and 1kg of a 13% ration. Due to the dry warm weather, grass dry matter is very high (around 20%) and clean out in paddocks has been excellent.

On our once-a-day system the cows are producing 1.79kg of milk solids per day at 4.89% butterfat and 4.08% protein. April milk price based on milk solids was 37.91 cents per litre which equates to 33p/litre.


Gillian O’Sullivan is a dairy farmer from southern Ireland Read more.