Farmer Focus: Fortunate our processor has long shelf life products

The most compact calving season we have ever experienced has come to an end after less than 10 weeks from start to finish.

In retrospect it was relatively painless considering we were down a student, with only a pregnant woman (me) to fill the labour gap.

We split the work between my husband Neil covering the grass and cows, my father doing the tractor work, such as feeding, and I did the calf rearing with bedding and cubicles divided between us.

Neil did a great job with the cows, especially around transitioning which was reflected in no left displaced abomasum/right displaced abomasum (LDA/RDAs ), <5% milk fever cases, <2% retained afterbirth and just a single case of ketosis.

See also: Autumn or spring block calving – which is best?

When cows calve down and hit the ground running it really takes a considerable amount of pressure off the system.

Calf rearing went well considering that no calf was lost once it was born alive, despite having a handful of respiratory cases during the unsettled stormy weather in February.

Our aim of breeding just the number of replacements we need instead of surplus dairy stock worked well, having an easy outlet for the Hereford beef calves that moved off the farm every few weeks.

We have been really fortunate to find a beef farmer that values calves getting the right start. After getting high-quality colostrum intake early the calves were able to leave the farm thriving for a flat price of about £105 a head. 

Cows are out full time with 3kg of a 13% ration in the parlour and the rest being grazed on grass. They are producing 2.05kg of milk solids per cow on our once-a-day milking system with butterfat at 5.01%, protein at 3.93% and somatic cell count of 64,000.

We supply Glanbia, where a greater proportion of the product goes into milk powder, butter and cheese instead of the shorter shelf life products such as milk and cream.

We have been lucky so far in that  we are currently weathering the Covid-19 pandemic fallout slightly better than other milk processors.

February milk price equated to 40p/litre based on milk fat and protein constituents. 

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