Olivia Hynes Signpost Update - March
Olivia Hynes is a Future Beef farmer in Jamestown, Four Roads, Co. Roscommon participating in the Signpost programme. We get the March update on how she is progressing with growing grass and closing for silage, calving, grass demand, slurry and grass utilisation 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.
Read more about the farm of Olivia Hynes here and watch out for future updates from her farm.
We hope to keep you informed regularly on the progress of the demonstration farmers throughout the course of this programme on Teagasc Daily while up to date info will be available on the Teagasc Future Beef Programme Website and on the Signpost Programme website.