Olivia is a full-time farmer in Jamestown, Four Roads, Co. Roscommon.
She farms 74.8Ha of family owned land. 17.2Ha is around the main farmyard in Jamestown, 47.42Ha is in Kilcash, and the remaining 10.2Ha is rented land in Taghboy.
Olivia runs an intensive mixed grazing enterprise, with 63 cows calving in 2022. Weanlings are targeted for the export sales from September to January annually. Olivia keeps 10-12 heifers as replacements annually. She is using 75% AI and has purchased a 5 star bull on both replacement & terminal indexes. Her aim is to tighten calving intervals and calving spread drastically in the next few years. This will improve the efficiency of the farm, improve profitability, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Olivia complements the suckler enterprise with an early to mid - season ewe flock . Scanning & weaning percentages are excellent with all lambs finished off grass to factory specification.
Over 90% of the farm is free draining brown acid soil, with moderate to good fertility. Olivia has been working on improving fertility for a number of years and liming is a priority to correct PH levels. Jamestown and Kilcash are both elevated farms but receive west of Ireland amounts of rainfall.
Olivia is stocked at 120 kg N/ ha with her mixed grazing enterprise. Olivia hopes to increase this figure by improving efficiencies on the farm.
Jamestown farm is well paddocked and divided with a farm road. However, Kilcash farm is not paddocked yet and is a priority over the next number of years, as well as water troughs being installed. This will allow Olivia to maximise the proportion of grazed grass in the diet of all animals, hence reducing costs.
All farm buildings are in relatively good condition, with housing facilities on both farms. Olivia has excellent handling facilities and plenty of slurry storage.
No. of cows: 63
Cow replacement index: 114
Heifer replacement index: 106
Calves per cow per year: 0.92
Olivia’s plan is to stay at the same cow numbers but to increase the efficiency on the bovine enterprise on the farm. Calves per cow per year and live weight performance at grass are the key focus areas for the next few years. So breeding management and getting the grazing infrastructure set up will be a priority.
Olivia also wants to improve soil fertility. She will use protected urea on a more regular basis as supply becomes consistent and this will help reduce emissions on this farm. Protected urea is one of the easier technologies to implement to reduce emissions. She intends using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) as a means of reducing nutrient losses to the environment and increasing grass growth in early Spring. Using LESS will give Olivia greater flexibility around grazing ground spread with slurry and allow supply an additional 3 units of nitrogen for every 1,000 gallons of slurry spread. This is an important consideration when fertiliser is so expensive and also the need to cut back on chemical nitrogen.
Olivia is interested in reseeding more of the out-farm, after paddocking is completed, and include multi species leys. Multispecies swards, similar to clover have the potential to reduce the demand for chemical N usage on the farm.
Growing grass and closing for silage is priority for the farm”
The lambing period in February was extremely busy and stressful. We had 3 storms in the month and the ewes and lambs had to be kept in for 5 days plus which led to its own problems. With the recent good weather the sheep sheds are empty and the ewes and lambs are in one group now on the outfarm in Kilcash.
There are 30 cows calved to date and I had just 1 loss so far– a calf born 3 weeks premature that couldn’t suck and subsequently died. The weather is everything - calved cows are let out immediately and are kept here on the homefarm. They are offered hay, Mg buckets to prevent tetany and are very settled at the moment.
Currently, there is a big demand for grass on the farm. Due to the wet weather in February and early March and a busy lambing period I didn’t apply any fertiliser. As a result the existing covers are gone back somewhat. Fields that have been grazed bare by sheep have got dung and slurry and are starting to green up. On the 23rd of March, the remaining fields got 22 units of bag nitrogen per acre. It is a priority to get grass growing and even fields that have medium to heavy covers have got the 22 units/acre. Given the high price of fertiliser I was tempted to skip these but after discussing with my adviser, I applied nitrogen to these fields. It will be too late to apply nitrogen when these are grazed off in two weeks and the nitrogen applied now will grow the second rotation so I took the advice to fertilise these fields also.
Like most drystock farmers, the massive rise in price of fertiliser and the lack of availability of some types, is very concerning for me. While I aim to reduce the overall amount of fertiliser, spring is not a time to make big reductions in what is applied. I have made better use of my slurry by applying in spring with LESS and targeted the silage ground. With no reserves of fodder left, it’s a priority to get a good crop of quality, first cut silage. 15 acres of silage ground got 3000gal/acre in early March and I will top this up with 60 units of nitrogen per acre this week and aim to cut for bales in mid – May. I make a pit in Kilcash and there is slurry ready to be applied to the silage ground once the ewes have it grazed off in early April. It looks like there will be hikes in meal prices also, so making 70% DMD+ silage will be critical to reduce or even eliminate this bill. I had to buy bales this year from a neighbour but I am thinking that this might not be an option next winter so it’s imperative that I make sufficient amount of silage this year .
Another way of reducing my fertiliser bill going forward and improve grass utilisation on the farm will be to split some of the larger fields in Kilcash into a size where I can control grass better. My Teagasc adviser tells me they are too big and I have to say I am in agreement with him! The sheep flock are staying too long in one field and a lot of grass is wasted. It is proving very difficult to graze out to 3 or 4 cm when they have a big run. I used TAMS fencing grant in the past to secure boundaries and it was money well spent. So I must ring my adviser Brian Daly, to make another application under TAMS for me. There is always money to be spent on a farm but fencing is one area where it will pay for itself. Depending on department approval I hope to make a start on it this year.