As many dairy farmers across the country are in a dry period during the month of January prior to calving there is no such luck on our farm at this time of year. In years gone by we have tended to milk 20-30 cows during the winter period. This inevitably reduces the burden of bills throughout the winter period with a milk cheque in the post every month which is an added bonus in a period of milk price volatility. In total this year we scanned 78 so we would aim to milk approx. 70 at peak during this year. This would be a slight increase on last years figures which is only fitting with the abolition of milk quota in 2015 there is great scope for expansion. Land availability would be our main barrier to expansion as is the case with every farmer nationwide. There are other avenues to expand such as contract rearing which is now only becoming practised in the west of Ireland.
At this time of the year all is pretty much quite on our farm with my father “the boss” taking somewhat of a well-deserved break. Milking cows are fed 6kg of concentrate a day in the parlour with the high DMD silage while dry cows are fed dry cow nuts and silage also. Nutrition at this time of year is critical as if the cow is too fat or thin at calving will have a subsequent effect on milk output.
Famers must also be mindful of mineral status and on our farm we mineral dust and provide mineral blocks at the feeding barrier. We are also aware of udder health with cubicles cleaned and limed each day. This is also a good time of year to get fences fixed and ready for spring time. We will start calving down then in and around the second week of spring. This is slightly later than national average as growth tends to be that bit back on that of the east and south of the country. Our ground would be not able to allow turnout of cows in early February and be very lucky to have cows at grass in early March. We’d aim to have cows out by Paddy’s day but this is very dependent on weather. This week we will also plan to spread slurry on the grazing block. This is a welcome relief as space was tight. Ground conditions would be far from ideal but the simple matter is the slurry has to go out. In some ways I think we are lucky in some ways as this hasn’t been the worst winter in years gone by. (so far :P).
Having been brought up on a dairy farm it only seems fitting that I perused a career in Agriculture which led me to leave the green fields of Mayo for the bright lights of the big smoke at 16 years of age to study Agricultural science in UCD. I have to say that my experience in UCD has led me to learn a lot not only about Agriculture but also about life away from home and would strongly recommend it to anyone considering Agriculture. I have spent spells in Kiernan Milling, Dawn Meat and Rosderra Meats which have further added to my enthusiasm for Agriculture. I am now starring down the barrel of finishing my four years in UCD. Like every young person I have aspirations of travelling but at the same time if something came up in Ireland I would also be willing to stay. There is also the prospect of moving home to run the family farm at some stage or even furthering my education. Whatever life has in store in years to come I know Agriculture will play a central role and I believe that the future of Agriculture in Ireland and worldwide is very promising.