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.