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Ken Gill March Update

Weigh cattle to analyse winter performance

Weigh cattle to analyse winter performance

  • Weigh at turnout to grass
  • Compare to housing weights
  • Turn out lighter stock as soon as weather allows
Analyse soil sample results with your advisor

Analyse soil sample results with your advisor

  • Spread lime where pH is low if you are not cutting silage from it in 3-6 months
  • Target slurry to silage and low index fields
  • Consider importing organic manures
Is short rotation coppice willow an option on your farm?

Is short rotation coppice willow an option on your farm?

  • The land area can be claimed through the current Basic Payment Scheme
  • Talk to local power station to determine if they will accept it
  • Chat to your local forestry advisor about grants available


Ken weighed the cows, calves and yearlings on the farm on 15th March. The average cow weight was 630 kg.

The 2021 born heifers (34) averaged 245 kg, having gained 0.95 kg/day since birth. The bullocks (38) averaged 262 kg, having gained 1.05 kg/day since birth.

The 2020 born heifers (24) averaged 506 kg, having gained 0.42 kg/day over the housing period. The bullocks (34) averaged 488 kg, having gained 0.43 kg/day over the winter.

Soil Fertility

Ken received his soil sample results which were taken earlier in the year. Overall his results were quite good with 34% of the farm being optimum for pH>6.2 and in index 3 or 4 for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Only 15% of the farm had a pH less than 6.2 which is unusual considering some of Ken’s soil is classified as peaty. Over 58% was in index 3 or 4 for phosphorous and 66% was in index 3 or 4 for potassium.

Ken has spread 60t of lime on his farm which is sufficient to build up the soil pH as recommended. He will be prioritising the dung produced on the farm for the tillage ground and will aim to keep all his slurry for the silage ground to replace nutrient offtakes. Ken also hopes to import poultry litter which is permitted as it is classified as an organic manure. This will be stored with the dung and spread on tillage land where possible.

Greenhouse Gases

There is just under 9.5 acres of willow growing on the farm. This was planted around 7 years ago and a grant was available at the time to plant it. It can also be claimed as eligible land through the Basic Payment Scheme. It was cut after 2 and 4 years, and has just been cut again after 3 years of growth. A harvester cuts and mulches the willow and it is drawn to Edenderry Power Station to be burnt as biomass for energy generation.

Some of the plantation could not be cut due to ground conditions, but 145 tonnes were supplied (around 16t/acre). Each load is given an energy rating based on the moisture and payment is made per tonne. After allowing for harvesting and haulage costs, Ken estimates that a margin of €200/acre per year was made from it.

Growing SRC (short rotation coppice) willow has the potential to sequester (capture) carbon, thus preventing its release as GHG. After the above ground biomass has been harvested for wood chip carbon can be stored in three ways: in the non-harvested above-ground biomass (stumps); the below-ground biomass in the form of course and fine roots; and the input of the carbon onto the soil organic matter. SRC willow can sequester around 0.12 t of carbon/ha/yr.

Further information on short rotation coppice willow is available at Short_Rotation_Coppice_Best_Practice_Guidelines.pdf