Proinnsias Creedon May/June 2023
Docks, clover & lime
- Focusing on dock control
- Identifying fields suitable for clover
- Using soil sample results to plan lime applications
- Fodder budget completed for the farm
- Over 350 bales required for winter 2023
- Targeting dry matter 28-32%
Purchased calf price & latest weights
- Average calf price was €128/head
- Latest weights for stock groups
- Finishing heifers continue to be drafted for slaughter
The biggest weed burden on the farm is from docks. They are present in many of the grazing and silage fields and this year Proinnsias has decided to start tackling them. He has three main reasons for this; firstly they are directly competing with the grass for nutrients from chemical and organic fertiliser, sunlight and water; secondly they are reducing the digestibility of silage and thirdly he wants to control them before over sowing any white clover on the farm.
The main priority for this year are some of the silage fields and the grazing paddocks around the yard. There are two sprays on the market that are best suitable to controlling docks. One of these products costs €38.45/acre (2L/ha at €95/2L). The grazing interval, i.e. the length of time that stock must be excluded from a paddock after spraying is 7 days. Chickweed and dandelions are present in some paddocks too and this spray will also treat them. The second spray costs €40.50/acre (2L/ha at €100/2L). It also has a grazing interval of 7 days and will treat chickweed and dandelions, but it is not recommended for use on silage fields. Moreover, if silage is cut from treated paddocks the following year, the manure from the silage must stay on the farm. Therefore the first option will suit the farm best and he will follow the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully. The docks will be sprayed when they are 15-25cm high or across and before a seed head begins to show to achieve the best results.
As previously mentioned, Proinnsias is planning to over sow white clover on the farm next year. He looked at individual paddocks to identify if the soil pH was over 6.5 and was in index 3 or higher for P and K. 17 paddocks meet this criteria. A further 22 paddocks have index 3 or higher soils for P and K, it is only the pH that needs to be increased on them. The 17 paddocks were further examined to see if clover was present in them already, if there was a low burden in the field and if they were open swards. This reduced the eligible paddocks to 8. These have been ear marked for over sowing next spring. A further 5 paddocks were identified as suitable if the dock burden was reduced so they can be targeted this year, and 3 of these also require 2t of lime per acre to increase the soil pH.
The timing of the National Liming Programme has been excellent for Proinnsias and he plans to use his allowance to spread lime according to the soil sample recommendations for the farm.
Figure 1: Dock plant
Proinnsias completed a fodder budget for the farm on Pasturebase. He expects to have 50 weanlings eating approximately 2kg ration/head/day and 40 finishing heifers eating approximately 4kg/head/day. He is budgeting for a 5 month winter and will need 350 bales of silage.
As demand for grass is low on the farm at this time of year, Proinnsias plans to take advantage of this and has over 11 acres closed up for silage. The latest grass wedge shows that there are 30 days of grass ahead on the farm, and as fertiliser has been spread on the grazing block it is expected that more of these will need to be cut for silage. There will be approximately 70 bales of silage left over from this winter, which reduces the number of bales to be made to 280. At an average yield of 7 bales/acre, Proinnsias will need to cut 40 acres (or 20 acres twice) to fulfil the fodder requirement.
As all cattle are a priority on the farm, it is important that all silage has a DMD of over 70% to reduce the ration bill for the farm. This means cutting it before the end of May, before the crop starts heading out. Some of the silage that was made last year had a dry matter of 71% which would severely affect intakes of finishing cattle, so every attempt will be made to avoid that this year and aim for a dry matter of 28-32%. That particular silage was made during the drought and could have been baled 24 hours earlier so Proinnsias will be conscious of that this year.
Figure 2: Fodder budget for winter 2023 showing stock requirements
The average calf price paid for the 55 calves bought in 2023 was €128/calf.
14 yearlings heifers were purchased on 22nd April and these were weighed on 7th April to track their weight gains at grass. They averaged 297kg (range 231-338kg).
9 out of 12 of the 2021 born store heifers at grass were weighed on 7th April and they averaged 449kg. Proinnsias plans to start feeding them at grass in mid-June so that they will be slaughtered before the end of July. It is expected that at least 3 of them will be finished at grass without any ration.
Six heifers were slaughtered on 19th April. They were over 2 years of age and averaged 260kg carcass weight, grading O-4- and making €1476. A further 9 heifers are expected to be drafted for slaughter over the next week.
Figure 3: Store heifers that will be finished at grass before the end of July