The main dairy herd finally went to grass last week. The 1st calved heifer and some of the young milking cows had been at pasture, on and off, since the last week of January but the entire milking herd was let out into the fields about a week ago. Getting the cows out of the sheds for the first time is always one of the highlights of the year on any farm. The excitement of the cows is palpable and they never fail to leap, buck, run and frolic through the field. Even the older cows manage a lap or two of the paddock as well! It’s always a sight to behold and provides a bit of welcome relief after the dark and dreary winter months. Cattle are always happier at grass and it gives the farmer a bit of a boost too to know that springtime is starting to properly arrive. The milk yield increased almost instantly, with some of the freshly calved mature cows adding another two gallons onto their daily production. Grass is the best fuel by far for any bovine, but dairy cows in particular need plenty of it to ensure a good yield is recorded for each lactation. It’s also the biggest driver of profitability so it’s a huge bonus to have them all out in the paddocks. The cows will come in at night for the next few weeks (weather dependent) but the whole herd should be out day and night by the end of the month.
Our former Friesian show cow, Kilsunny Trump 30 EX91 2E calved down this week with a beautiful heifer calf by a homebred stock bull. We don’t show our dairy cattle all that much but this cow represented the herd at the annual Emerald Dairy Expo a couple of years ago. She acquitted herself well in the show ring, taking home a rosette against some very formidable competition and she also classified Excellent (the highest type bracket possible on the IHFA scoring system) later that same year. She’s fresh with her 7th calf this week and while she’ll probably never see the inside of a show ring again, she’s still one of the best looking cows in the herd. She’s given us five heifers out of seven calvings and her daughters all look set to follow in her footsteps with a 1st calved daughter going VG85 in our last IHFA classification visit. The cow herself is being kept in a loose straw shed for a couple of more days just to be on the safe side and to let her properly recuperate after the calving. We’ll let her off to grass with the rest of the milking herd this coming week.
We took a Friesian bull to the first of the big multi-breed spring sales at Kilkenny last Wednesday. The dairy trade was very brisk with a fairly high clearance and bulls selling to a top price of €4800. Our bull, Kilsunny Jubilaris, a JRB son out of a VG88 3.70% protein cow sold for €2750. He sold at a couple of hundred euros above the average price on the day so I was delighted with that result. It was also a brilliant’s day’s work to come home with an empty trailer. The bull sold to a dairy farmer from Co. Kilkenny and will be used on dairy heifers initially before cleaning up the main milking cows later in the season. Buyers seemed to want well-grown, mature bulls and the older bulls in the sale attracted the best prices. It was a noticeable improvement on the Spring dairy bull sales of 2016 where the overall trade was pretty gloomy and depressed. Demand can fluctuate quite wildly from season to season which means you have to plan for all eventualities. 2017 looks to be shaping up to be a decent year for bulls, thanks in no small part to the increasing milk price and improved confidence in the dairy sector generally. We still have a small number of pedigree breeding dairy bulls for sale and they should all find new homes in the next few weeks.
This week I’m off to the Premier Irish Aberdeen-Angus Association sale of pedigree bulls at Nenagh Mart on Wednesday (March 22nd) and we’ll be hoping that the drier weather returns as we plan to let out some of the young dairy calves to grass on the home farm too.