Ken Gill January/February Update 2023
Making the spring rotation plan work for the farm
- Autumn calves are continuing to graze by day until weaning when they are out full time
- Ken has closed up his silage ground
- 20 of the lightest yearlings will be turned out to grass to join the calves
- First batch of cull cows are sold to reduce feed demand on the farm
- Second batch had less fat cover and are being fed on
- They are being fed red clover silage and 3.5 kg of organic ration
Weed control for hedge planting
- Planning for ACRES scheme
- Option to use compostable film for weed control when planting new hedges
- Irish suppliers selling it at 50c/metre
Ken measured grass on the farm on 2nd February. He had a farm cover of 278 kg DM/ha which is low for this time of year. However he was balancing this with the demand for grass which is 4kg DM/ha/day with the 65 autumn born weanlings. Some of these are at grass full time and others are at grass by day until they are weaned. When the farm was walked again on 28th February the farm cover had increased to 334 kg DM/ha, with a growth rate of 5 kg DM/ha/day.
Ken adjusts the standard spring rotation planner slightly for his farm. As the farm is organic, he is not permitted to use any chemical fertiliser and as such has to close his silage fields for longer to allow them to grow well. Making quality silage is extremely important for feeding the autumn calving herd over winter and reducing the need for any organic ration or feeding back organic oats that are produced on the farm. Therefore Ken grazes his silage ground first to allow for this. It will be fertilised with 2,000-3,000 gallons of cattle slurry in early March to provide adequate Ps and Ks for first cut silage and he will aim to cut it for silage before mid-May (less than 10 week growing season).
With the silage ground now closed up, Ken’s attention turns to grazing the rest of his grassland. While the weanlings are doing a good job grazing, they are slow moving around the farm and even with the lower farm cover, Ken has an opportunity to let out more cattle. There are 20 lighter yearling heifers and bullocks in the shed that will be turned out to join them. This will help to improve their average daily gains, reduce feed demand for silage and will help Ken to meet his grazing targets this spring. The spring rotation planner on PastureBase is helping him to track this, see below.
Nine suckler cows were culled on 26th January. They were sold conventionally and averaged €1647/head at 348kg carcass weight.
A further 7 cows have been weaned and are being fed for finishing and are eating red clover silage along with 3.5kg of organic ration/head/day. Ken expects to slaughter them in the next 60 days.
Ken has applied for 500m of hedging through the ACRES scheme. He is planning to order plants as soon as his approval comes through so that he can make a start on planting before the end of March.
Compostable film is available for weed control over newly sown hedges. It is available from two sources in Ireland at a cost of approximately 50 cent per metre of hedge. Cost will vary with the width and thickness of film. The wider the better to prevent vegetation from either side falling over the new shrubs. The thickness can be between 30 – 50 micron. This compares to maize film of 7-8 micron. The lighter film appears to be adequate but is more difficult to handle.
Maizetech in Co. Wexford and SAMCO in, Co. Limerick are Irish suppliers of the compostable film.