Today, Tuesday, June 19th, saw the Aurivo/Teagasc KT Farm profitability farm walk take place on the dairy farm of Oisin Gill in Hollymount, Co. Mayo.
The Farm -
Oisin, aged 33-years-old, is farming a herd of almost 150 cows for milking, consisting of mainly Holsteins with a Jersey influence.
Upon taking over the farm Oisin has not only brought the milk price performance of his herd into the top 2%, through changing genetics (Using Jerseys), but Oisin has also increased numbers and is in the process of finalizing plans for a new 26-unit parlour.
Attendees learned that less than three years ago the Gill’s were milking in a 9-unit parlour, with only family working on the farm and performance figures not at the desired levels. We learned that in the space of three short years, through extensive culling of replacement heifers and breeding Jerseys through the herd, that Oisín improved milk solids per cow from 355 in 2015 to 376 in 2018.
The quantity of litres produced per cow had decreased slightly during this time, (from 4,963 to 4,820 in 2018), though fat and protein levels had increased significantly. (Fat 2015 3.76%- Fat 2018 4.36%, Protein 2015 3.19%, Protein 2018 3.42%).
Oisin also discussed how he achieved in lowering his calving interval from 19 weeks to just 12 weeks, saving his a lot of time and stress.
Main Topics and Speaker -
The main topics of today’s KT walk were labour efficiency, farmyard planning and dairy expansion.
The first topics discussed were genetics, cow type, calf rearing and calving patterns, in relation to Oisin's farm and performance. This was followed by a detailed talk from Teagasc advisor, Patrick Gowing, who discussed the importance of planning correctly before rebuilding and dairy expansion.
Patrick, pictured below, discussed the importance of building towards a better cow flow through the parlour, whilst also highlighting the importance of giving correct space in walkways for cows and also how one can reduce the time it takes to get cows to the yard, by eliminating corners.
Patrick discussed Oisin’s impending plans for his new parlour, how Teagasc helped him to design a more efficient farmyard and parlour, which will effectively reduce working hours and also divulged that a new parlour costs “roughly” €8,000 per unit.
Roadways, reseeding and soil management -
Next, the topic of discussion turned to roadways and how to correctly plan and design them on your farm.
Attendees were told that using fine materials when building a road is important, to not only protect cow hoof health but also for a longer lasting road. Farmers in attendance also learned that the fewer turns for cows the better when it comes to roadways while learning that Oisin obtained the majority of materials for his newly finished roadways on his farm.
It was advised that any work on roadways be carried out during dry weather for better results.
The final two speakers on the day spoke on both reseeding and soil management, with farmers finding out how reseeding can improve a farms overall productivity, that it allows for higher animal output per ha, increases grass quality and utilisation and helps establish uniform clover swards.
Farmers were informed of Oisin’s recent reseeding activities, whilst also learning that soil fertility is of the utmost importance when successfully reseeding land. Farmers were advised to always carry out a soil test, for N, P and K, whilst also learning that the optimum pH is 6.9.
The speaker informed attending farmers that post sowing, post-emergence spray should be used on docks 5-6 weeks after reseeding, with platforms grazed every 17-21 days. It was advised to avoid cutting silage on newly reseeded land during their first year. The speakers also advised that Spring is a better time of year to reseed rather than August, as it allows for more time to carry out a post-emergence spray.
Ten Steps of Reseeding -
- Identify under-performing paddocks for reseeding
- Perform a soil test
- Plan to reseed early (Spring is advised)
- Spray off paddock
- Prepare a firm seed bed
- Choose the most suitable grass variety.
- Spread Lime and N,P and K
- Roll after sowing
- Post emergence spray
- Graze at a low cover (700kgs - 1,000kgDM/ha)
The farm walk concluded with a talk on soil management and correctly applying lime, N, P and K on soils.
Farmers were informed that on Oisins farm, as slurry was transported off-farm, that he had a lower than required K balance in some of his paddocks and why it is important to ensure all paddocks have adequate minerals. The importance of following and implementing a nutrient management plan and the benefits it can have were driven home to conclude the walk.Overall, it was a very informative farm walk near Hollymount, Co. Mayo at today’s Teagasc/Aurivo KT Profitability farm walk. The key take home message - planning is everything in farming. Whether it’s grass management, building a new parlour, breeding, soil management or culling, every extra bit of planning you do will help your farm thrive in the long run and help improve the all important bottom line. As Roy Keane says “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.
Don’t forget to check out our Live coverage of the event on our Twitter page here or via Snapchat - thatsfarming.