Cooney Furlong install Solar PV Panels

The Cooney Furlong Grain Company install Solar Photovoltaic (PV) in Wexford Town and Country Store

Leading agribusiness, The Cooney Furlong Grain Company installs innovate Solar Photovoltaic (PV) in their Town and Country Store, in Drinagh, Wexford.

The official commissioning of the Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels, took place Wednesday’s 21st April with both ESB Networks and Solar Electric on site.

This installation will harness solar energy and convert it into usable power for the Wexford premises, reducing reliance on the national grid and decreasing the company’s carbon footprint.

The south facing pitched roof was identified as the most suitable site for the 33.75kWp PV system which consists of 90 individual 375Wp Trina Solar Modules, connected to 2 no. SMA 3 phase, dual MPPT inverter and mounted on a German manufactured pitched roof mounting system. This was specifically designed for the proposed trapezoidal structure over the main offices of The Cooney Furlong Town and Country Store.

As part of the project, an online monitoring solution called a Sunny Portal is on display in the Town and Country store in Drinagh, this shows both production and consumption in real time, but also stores historical data for instant review or for future download.

Maeve Furlong, Purchasing Manager, The Cooney Furlong Grain Company says, ‘we are delighted to be able to support local on this project by working with Solar Electric. The installation of the Solar PV panels is one of several steps we are taking across our business group to invest in sustainable solutions.

Des Doyle, Accounts Manager, The Cooney Furlong Grain Company who was instrumental in the project roll out, commented ‘with grain assembly, drying and storage at the core of our business, the aim of this project is to improve our green rating, reduce our carbon offset but also protect against energy price increases and reduce running costs. The panels are expected to generate enough electricity affording a return on investment within 5 years.’

Tom Foley, Sales & Operations Director, Solar Electric said, ‘as a Wexford company, we’re delighted to be the chosen supplier by The Cooney Furlong Grain Company and involved in the installation of the first large Solar Photovoltaic (PV) project within the group. We produced an optimal design, to maximise the company’s electricity demands, roof space and site conditions.’

Maeve concludes, ‘it is our intention to implement this positive initiative across all our other business locations which will further decrease our reliance on traditional sources of energy. As a business we are committed to investing in sustainable and environmental solutions to meet the requirements of the government’s climate action plan and enhance the agricultural landscape in Ireland.’

winter crop

Winter Crop – Technical update spring 2021

Author: George Blackburn – Sales Manager 

Key management decisions regarding fertiliser and growth regulation in the early stages of the spring can have a major bearing on a crops final yield potential, especially winter barley. There is a marked increase in the overall acreage of winter cereals as sowing conditions were good in the early part of autumn 2020. The earlier drilled crops have better establishment without question and many did receive an autumn aphicide. Those that took the gamble of sowing earlier into better conditions seem to have been rewarded so far but time will tell on this.

Winter Barley

Winter barley crops are looking well in general and are well established with good plant count levels. Most were sowed before conditions got difficult in the autumn and have come through a wet winter in good condition. Any crops that have not received any Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) will require an application before early March as soon as conditions allow. Crops that received no autumn P and K will start to show deficiencies especially for when temperatures pick up and growth kicks in. Check your soil samples and tailor NPK compounds accordingly. Depending on soil indexes, winter barley crops need 30-35 units of P and 100 Units of K. 4 bags /acre of 10-8-25+S. Aim to have 75% of nitrogen out on winter barley by 20th of March. Disease levels are low, therefore growth regulation and tillering will be the focus of early chemical applications.

Winter Wheat

Winter wheat crops are generally good but there is some variation out in the fields. Crops sowed earlier that are well established are in good condition, with excellent plant stands. Crops sowed later into difficult seedbeds, especially after potatoes or fodder, beet have struggled to establish. The wet weather in the winter has taken its toll on these crops and they have also suffered a certain amount of slug damage in places. Chopped bean straw has also proven to be a suitable host for slugs and a few winter wheat crops after beans have had to be treated with slug pellets. Many crops after beans have a lot of bean volunteers coming through but these will be easily dealt with it in the spring and are serving a useful purpose, allowing water to infiltrate into soil down along its roots.

Overall, crops are generally good and winter wheat has an amazing ability to compensate even for sub- optimal plant stands come harvest , so I would be reluctant to tear up any crops, unless they have large areas missing completely. A little and often approach to Nitrogen (N) will help to maintain and produce tillers, allowing the crop to fill in. A notable attribute of Graham.  Aim to have balance of P and K out on wheat by mid-March. Apply accordingly to soil sample requirements. Aim to have the first main split of N on by the first week of April, and the final split on by the first week of May. The aim with wheat is not to have too big a canopy too early in the crop as this presents problems for growth regulation and disease control, particularly Septoria Tritici.

Winter Oats

There is a nice amount of winter oats in the ground and all have established well in general. The two varieties sown are Isabel and Husky, both spring varieties sowed in the autumn. As a result, crops are quite forward owing to the reasonably mild winter. Most crops are fine but some in more coastal milder areas are a touch forward. These crops will need careful attention in terms of growth regulation and rust control, especially in coastal areas in South Wexford. Crops will need to get their NPKS requirements by the middle of March with a blend such as 10-5-25 + S, which is ideal for winter oats at 4 bags/Acre.

Winter Oilseed Rape 

The acreage of oilseed rape is not huge this year but any crops that are planted are in very good condition. Most were sowed later than usual in the autumn, with most sowed the first week of September. All crops received some P at planting, which has made a big difference to rooting and overall establishment. Crops are even with good green area indexes. All crops have been treated with a fungicide for light leaf spot in the autumn and with Kerb (propyzamide) for grass weed control. Aim to get potash out on rape by mid-March, with 100-110 units. Rape has a high requirement for sulphur so the first main split of N should include ASN (26%N 15% S), with further applications of sulcan. Aim to apply the last 40-50 units of N on rape at the latest possible time, to ensure that the fertiliser spreader can physically travel through the crop.

 

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Fertiliser considerations to maximise Nutrient Use Efficiency

Author: Philip Kennedy – Area Manager (New Ross) 

To maximise the efficient use of our land, organic and chemical fertilisers is something that farmers must strive to achieve. In doing so, there are a number of factors that we must take into account. When growing any crop, it is critical to ensure that the soil pH is at the correct level. The optimum soil pH is 6.3 for grassland, preferably with 60-70% calcium and 10-20% magnesium.

Agri Lime  – the forgotten fertiliser

Lime is often a forgotten fertiliser that can greatly impact soil fertility. There is not a one size fits all when it comes to lime, therefore we must choose the correct lime to suit our soil type. In general, calcium lime is the only type required in Wexford due to the high levels of magnesium in soils. Remember; if you are at Index 4 for magnesium, that is as far as the scale goes. You could be index 6 or 8 if the scale were to continue, therefore, do not use dolomitic lime. Having the correct type of lime and pH for your soil will make your Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) fertiliser work far more efficiently and can release up to 80kg/Ha organic N.

Know your off-takes (P – Phosphorous, K – Potassium & S – Sulphur) 

When cutting grass silage, we must remember that each tonne of grass DM per ha will remove 4kg/HA of P (3.2 units/ac) and 25kg/ha of K (20units/ac). Within a grazing situation, these nutrients are recycled and replaced from the animal’s through animal manure.  Sulphur requirements will depend on your soil type. Light soils will leach sulphur out more than heavy soils. As a rule of thumb, match your P requirements to your S requirements. Avoid spreading large quantities of S during the breeding season in order not to lock up selenium and iodine. Smaller quantities can be spread, however if you need ASN (16N 14S) Kieserite (15Mg 20S) or Calcium Sulphate (33 CA 22S), it is recommended to wait until after the breeding season as these products contain high levels of sulphur.

Slurry Nutrient Values 

Slurry is an important source of organic fertilisation; therefore, it is important that we do not underestimate the slurry values. The typical nutrient value of a 7% DM meal feed cattle slurry per 1,000 gallons per acre, is 6N, 5P and 30K. However, when using a 3.5% DM slurry (this is a more accurate figure as we must take dairy washings and added water into account when using Low Emission Slurry Spreading), these nutrient values drop to 5N, 3P and 15K. Nitrogen efficiency in slurry is variable and depends on the method of application and the prevailing weather conditions. Warm dry weather combined with a splash plate application will lead to most of the N being lost into the atmosphere. When we talk about organic fertilisers, we must bear in mind that cutting grass silage with a low index for P and K will equate to lower slurry P and K values.

Grazing

Total NPKS requirements will depend on your stocking rate and how much grass is required. To give an example, a stocking rate of 210kg organic N per ha will require circa, 100kg N, 9kg P and 10kg K per Ha more than a stocking rate in the 130 to 170 kg organic N per ha bracket. The below figures are given for an average stocking rate.

 

Phosphorus and potassium table

 

As the above table shows, continued soil analysis is vital in order to use fertilisers in the most cost-efficient way possible. P requirements are high in the spring, therefore, half your P requirements should be applied in spring with a little and often approach being taken throughout the remainder of the grazing season.

 

Due to the fact that we get luxury uptake of K in the spring, and in order to prevent cow health issues such as grass tetany, it is best to avoid large K applications in early season. Instead, it is best to build soil K levels later in the grazing season. Applying larger K applications can be useful at certain times of the year to reduce drought stress in crops during the summer months. For example, using the likes of an 18-6-12+S product on in early to mid-May will help maximise grass quality and reduce stem production due to drought. For low index K fields, spreading a compound such as 24-2.5-10+s during the summer months can be a useful way of applying the required amount.

Silage 

A reasonable heavy crop of first cut silage will have 5 tonne of DM per ha, which roughly equates to 10 tonne of fresh grass per acre. On an index 3 P 3K soil, this will remove 20kg per ha p (16 units per acre) and 125kg per ha K (100 units per acre). For index 2 P, we must add 10kg P per ha (8units/ac) and for index 1, we must add 20kg P (16units/ac) per cut. For index 2 K, we must add 30kg/Ha (24 units/ac) and for index 1 we must add 60kg/Ha (48 units/ac) K.

 

Farmers are looking for better quality forage now and graze silage in early spring and still cut their crop in late May. For this system, 100kg N/Ha (80 units/ac) 20kg p (16 units/ac) 100kg K/Ha (80 units/ac) and 20kg/Ha S (16 units/ac) should be applied between slurry and chemical fertiliser. In the event of low index soils, the P can be addressed for the crop, however if large amounts of K are required, it is best to apply some of this in the autumn of the previous year. This will eliminate your silage being too high in K and causing hypocalcaemia in freshly calved cows. High K silage does not affect beef cattle or lactating cows. Muriate of potash 0-0-50 can be applied even in the closed period and is a good way of addressing low index k soils. Second and third cuts will also require 25kg N 4kg P 25kg K and 4kg S per ton of DM removed. When cutting out heavy paddocks, do not forget to replace the P and K removed. Applying a product like 15-3-20+S at 2-2.5 bags per acre should maintain your index in this situation. Alternatively; 2000 gallons/acre of slurry can replace the nutrients removed.

 

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Turnout to grass – Top tips for dairy cow nutrition

Author: Jack Scallan – Ruminant Feed Specialist 

Turning cows out to spring grass is a major event in the annual dairy calendar. At this stage, there are many physiological changes taking place in the cow, such as recovering from the calving event and restoring optimum BCS to reaching peak milk yield. These changes are also occurring at a time when dry matter intake does not meet energy demands otherwise known as NEB (Negative Energy Balance) and the diet itself is constantly changing.

So, here are a few tips worth considering at turnout to grass:

  • Gradual Turnout. On/off grazing for a few hours per day for 2-3 weeks before full turnout, weather and ground conditions permitting, is of huge benefit, as it allows the microbes in the rumen to adjust from an indoor silage based diet to an outdoor grass based diet. This process normally takes about 3 weeks.

 

  • Dry Matter Intakes (DMI). Grass is a very useful feed but varies quite a lot in quality and at times quantity. The dry matter of the grass can range from well below 10% in spring to over 20% in summer. A cow would need to eat 100kg of fresh grass at 15% DM if she is to take in 15kg of grass dry matter. At 10% DM, she would need to consume 150kg fresh grass to achieve an intake of 15kg grass dry matter. The variation in grass DM has a major influence of BCS, fertility, milk yield and quality.

 

  • SARA (Sub Acute Rumen Acidosis). This is very common in spring calving herds on lush leafy spring grass. Lush leafy spring grass tends to have low levels of structural fibre (e.g. lignin,) and high sugar levels which impacts on rumen function which in turn leads to SARA. SARA will compromise milk yield, milk protein and fat percentages, while a prolonged period of SARA will negatively impact on fertility and BCS.

 

  • Fat and Protein. Spring grass contains high levels of unsaturated fatty acids which can negatively affect milk fat percentage. Spring grass will also contain high crude protein levels, particularly after fertilizer application. Excessive dietary crude protein will result in high urea levels in milk and blood which will also negatively affect BCS and fertility.

 

  • Buffer Feeding. Feeding a high energy, high dry matter forage, such as maize silage, will help counteract the variances of a grass diet in spring/early lactation. This will help to balance DMI and regulate rumen function.

 

  • Concentrate Feeding. As grass and a buffer feed, on their own, will not meet the nutritional demands of early lactation, it is necessary to feed a concentrate at grass. The concentrate (pellet or coarse ration) must compliment the grass. A pellet/ration with about 14-16%  crude protein ( 15% maximum for derogation purposes) with a highly digestible fibre content (sugar beet, soya hulls) and a good source of energy ( barley, maize) will be achieve this.  The diet must be balanced with the correct levels of minerals and vitamins, such as magnesium (for grass tetany), etc.

 

  • Monitor the cows. Throughout the grazing season, and particularly in early lactation, the cows should be regularly checked as changes in BCS, dung consistency, cudding rates, general health status, etc. can indicate an imbalance in the diet.

 

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Give your calves the best possible start

Author: John Bass – Business Development Manager 

Getting your calves off to the best possible start will have a huge impact on its growth, health, and longevity within the herd. The ultimate goal of calf rearing is to set up a heifer to achieve target weights such as doubling her birth weight at the point of weaning, achieving 60% of her mature weight at breeding, and calving down at 24 months at 90% of her mature body weight. To help you achieve such targets, we have put together a number of essential calf rearing protocols to follow over the next few vital weeks.

Colostrum Management

A calf’s first feed is no doubt the most important feed of its life. Ensuring a calf receives an adequate intake of quality colostrum preferably from its own mother will provide crucial antibodies and immunity from illness and disease.

  • Follow the 3:2:1 rule (3 litres, 2 hours, 1st milking). Colostrum deteriorates significantly within 4-6 hours after calving. Feed enough clean colostrum quickly to ensure that the calves receive high-quality colostrum. Intervene with a bottle feed if it has not suckled.
  • Keep colostrum clean; wash and sterilise all collecting buckets, dump buckets, and dump lines as you would wash your milking machine.
  • If storing colostrum in the fridge, do so at 4 degrees and for no longer than two days, as the absorption of antibodies will deteriorate thereafter.
  • Colostrum should be frozen in small packs to ease defrosting. To avoid damage to antibodies, ensure to defrost slowly on a low heat below 50 degrees celsius.

Milk replacer vs whole milk

Following on from the colostrum, the calf then moves onto transition milk. From day 2-3, it is advantageous to feed milk replacer over whole milk to help minimise disease spread and anti-bacterial resistance. The following guidelines should be followed:

  • Calves require approximately 13% of their body weight in feed intake in week one of life. This should be split between 2-4 feeds per day. In week two, this requirement rises to 15% of body weight equating to about 6L per day for a 40kg calf.
  • Like with whole milk, milk replacers need to be mixed and fed at the correct temperature (37-39 degrees Celsius) and correct concentration to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
  • Mix 125 grams to 850ml of water which provides a daily gain of roughly 700 grams (6L milk/day). Increase to meet demand if necessary.
  • Calves at 2-3 weeks of age have the potential to achieve 750-950 grams of live weight gain per day, with a minimum of 500 grams.
  • Feed conversion efficiency is almost at 1:1, so the quality of milk fed must be high to ensure the daily intake is providing enough nutrition to meet demand.
  • Milk powders vary and those based on either skim or whey are more favourable than those based on vegetable proteins – Dairy proteins are more easily absorbed and available to the calf compared to plant-based proteins.
  • Aim for powders with a minimum of 23% protein and 17% fat and below 0.1% fibre.
  • Buckets and feeders should be rinsed daily and sterilised 2-3 times a week.

Concentrates

  • Introduce a high-quality calf starter ration or nut from days 2-3.
  • Make sure it is high in cereal grains and highly palatable with no dust.
  • Intakes will be small, so keep quantities low and fresh.
  • Early intake of cereal-based feed will rapidly increase early rumen development and the growth of papillae on the rumen wall. As a result, this will increase nutrient uptake capacity of the calf throughout its life.
  • Failing to feed grain at an early stage will have drawbacks later in life. Aim to have calves eating 1kg at weaning.

Housing

  • A fresh straw bed is important for calf welfare. It will also encourage straw intake which will aid digestive development.
  • Ensure that calves have adequate feeding and resting space and that pens are well-drained and free from any breezes or wind.
  • Regular cleaning and liming are a must to avoid pathogens and scours.
  • Ensure there is constant fresh clean drinking water provided for calves and that feeders and drinkers are at an accessible height.

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winter crops

Winter Crops Update

Author: George Blackburn

 

Conditions since the first week of October have been difficult to say the least, with heavy rainfall and very tight weather windows providing limited opportunities for sowing. The dry spell we were promised never really materialised but tillage farmers are a resilient bunch and in spite of the circumstances, a significant amount of winter plantings has been completed. We have had to adapt with a lot of the later crops being drilled with power harrow combination drills directly behind the plough.

 

Winter Oilseed Rape

Winter oilseed rape crops are looking good in general. Due to the late harvest, acres sowed aren’t massive but anyone that did risk the later plantings is pleasantly surprised. Many crops weren’t sowed till the 10th -15th of September which would traditionally have been seen as too late but there was plenty of moisture and warmth in the ground this year and crops have established very well. The use of hybrid varieties has worked well in the later planting slots and have proven their worth. Volunteer cereals have been an issue due to the difficult harvest conditions and most have been treated with a graminicide to tidy up volunteers. Pre emerge herbicide has worked well also with good chemical up take in the target weeds. Crops will need to be treated with a fungicide for light leaf spot and some foliar boron when at the 4-6 true leaf stage probably around mid-November. Crops that weren’t treated with pre emerge herbicide or that have grass weed issues will need to be sprayed with Kerb Flo or Astrokerb when temperatures drop below 12 degrees Celsius.

 

Winter Wheat

Plantings of winter wheat have increased significantly on last year with a mixture of early and later sown crops. The two main varieties sown are Graham and Costello. Many growers especially on more difficult soils took advantage of favourable conditions in late September. These crops have established excellently with almost 100% germination. Crops sowed in late September will be at risk of BYDV and will need an aphicide when at the 3 leaf stage and possibly a follow up treatment approximately a month later. Aphid counts are variable and we are still slightly in the dark as to the relative proportion of resistant aphids in the local population. The advice must be to err on the side of caution and avoid spraying with a pyrethroid insecticide until at least 3 true leaves on crops to minimise damage to beneficial insects that feed on aphids in the target population. Later sown crops were sowed in some marginal conditions and they will be at risk of slug damage so growers will need to keep an eye on the emergence of these crops. There is still time to sow wheat if conditions allow but be mindful to increase seeding rates as the season moves on. It is also prudent to ensure seeding depth is deeper than a crow’s beak at this time of year.

 

Winter Barley

Winter barley plantings are also up on the whole and many crops have been sowed into good quality seedbeds. There is a vast choice of winter barley varieties on the market this year with LG Casting, Valerie and Cassia two rows proving popular with the hybrid six row Belfry and 6 row conventional KWS Kosmos popular in more difficult fields. There was a limited supply of the new BYDV tolerant variety KWS Joyau to the market this year and we will wait with eager anticipation to see how this variety performs. Plant breeding and not chemistry may be our best weapons against plant pathogens in the future. As with the wheat similar advice applies for aphicide applications. Most crops were treated pre emerge with a combination of Flufenacet and DFF and this was very important for grass weed control. Any crops not treated will need to get a post emerge treatment of Tower and DFF before annual meadow grass tillers to control it. It is essential to treat winter barley for grass as soon as possible in Autumn as there is no spring treatment available anymore.

 

Winter Oats

Winter oat plantings are holding steady with the two main varieties of Isabel and Husky going in. Oats aren’t generally sowed till after the 10th of Oct so there is still plenty of time to plant Oats if conditions allow. They are both spring varieties planted in the winter so earlier sowing will present more problems than solutions with disease and growth regulation. Aim to plant oats at 12 stone 200 kg per ha at this stage of the season to insure a strong plant stand. Isabel is more suited to coastal areas as it has a very good rust resistance profile while husky is a hardier variety so will prove more suitable more inland where winter frost is a higher risk. Winter oats generally don’t require an Autumn herbicide but crops who may be in fields with annual meadow grass issues can be sprayed pre emerge with DFF @0.25L/Ha.

 

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Best practices when drying off cows

Author: Jack Scallan 

 

The time for drying off cows is fast approaching. Over the next few weeks, a number of issues must be looked at.

 

  • The length of the dry period for the herd in general and individual cows. First lactation cows and thin cows should be given 10 to 12 weeks dry, whereas about 8 weeks should be sufficient for the rest of the herd.

 

  • Body Condition Score (BCS) is an extremely important consideration. Ideally BCS should be 2.75 – 3.0 at drying off and 3.0 – 3.25 at calving. It may require supplementary feeding in late lactation and throughout the dry period to achieve these targets.

 

  • Test the quality of the forage available and, also, calculate the quantity available. This will have a major influence on what, and how much, is fed during the dry period. 68 to 70 DMD silage is adequate to maintain cows at the desired BCS.

 

  • The appropriate dry cow therapy used will be determined by the SCC (Somatic Cell Count) readings during the lactation. If the SCC is high, then an antibiotic treatment will be required by some or all of the herd. If it is low, a teat sealer only, or no treatment at all, may be necessary.

 

  • Well ventilated housing with enough cubicles and feed space to accommodate all of the cows must be ensured. Inadequate accommodation will have a negative effect on BCS and the cow’s wellbeing. Fresh clean water must be available at all times.

 

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Beef Feeding Focus – Top Tips to remember this winter

Getting the most efficient beef feeding regime to suit your farm and your animal’s needs is a battle every farmer faces. With winter just around the corner it’s important to remember a few key points:

Housing Beef Animals – make sure that all cattle have adequate, dry space to lie down with ample ventilation and airflow. It is important to match cattle of equal size and weigh in pens together to avoid bullying. Avoid overcrowding in pens also as both these factors will dramatically decrease live weight gain (LWG).  Shaving down the cattle’s back reduces body temperature therefore increasing feed intake.

Water – access to adequate clean water is vital. A beef bull at 300kg will drink between 25-30 litres of water per day. A 600kg beef bull will drink 30-60 litres per day and up to an additional 70 litres a day, depending on concentrates.

Dosing – a regular dosing programme is of key importance. Cattle should be dosed for worms 2 to 3 weeks prior to housing, this will minimise the risks of lungworms causing pneumonia. Cattle should also be dosed 3 to 4 weeks after housing for fluke, worms and lice.

Energy – energy intake is the determining factor in live weight gain in cattle. Energy is crucial and it’s important to choose a ration as high in energy as possible (i.e. as close to 1UFL as possible). High DMD silage, maize silage and beet can also be included. Depending on age a typical fattening diet will be very high in energy with an average protein of 13% across the diet, as maize and beet are low in protein it is necessary to bring up the protein to balance the diet. 20kg of beet is the equivalent to 4.5kg of concentrate. Maize and beet are low in phosphorus and protein, therefore it is important to supplement these in the diet.

Protein – there is a lot of confusion over what is the correct amount of crude protein to be fed to cattle. It is recommended to feed crude protein between 12%-14% depending on sex, breed and maturity rate for finishing cattle and 14%-16% for growing cattle. This seems quite low, but it is more important to get usable protein into the diet. Energy, Fibre and Protein are the 3 main constituents of the diet.

Fibre – lack of adequate fibre in the diet is often the reason we encounter problems such as acidosis, lameness and in extreme cases even joint ill. At least 10%-15% of the diet needs to be fibre. Ideally, silage should be at least 72 DMD for a finishing system. Chopped straw is considered a necessity in an ad lib diet. Optimal straw chop length is 30mm –50mm. Chopping straw will reduce feed sorting and wastage. Chopped straw aids to lower PH levels in the rumen and therefore stimulating digestion and optimising feed intake. A minimum of 1-2kg of straw is essential in any ad lib diet.

Feeding Rate – Diet changes should be gradually introduced over a 3-week time frame, to allow rumen microbes to adapt. Start at 3kg per head per day of concentrate or cereals and step it up by 1kg every 3 days, as long as cattle aren’t showing any sign of digestive disturbance, until you reach the desired maximum feeding level. A buffer or yeast is a good insurance in a diet but is no substitution for good management. Keeping a watchful eye for any digestive disturbances is essential. In general, the level of concentrates fed will depend on how fast you intend on finishing your cattle so typically fattening cattle will eat between 5-10kg concentrates per day or ad lib meal with straw for a fast finish. Growing cattle are generally fed 2kg per day or even less with silage at 70+ DMD. Concentrate can be reduced and maybe even cut down to zero with high quality silage a month or so before being turned out as weanlings, as weanlings will have compensatory growth when they hit the grass in spring.

Grass Silage Quality – Silage testing is vital in order to calculate the required concentrate supplementation. The level of concentrates that will need to be supplemented will vary depending on the DMD of the silage. With every decrease of 5 DMD an extra 1kg of concentrate supplementation is require. If for example you have a Charolais bullock with a target live weight gain of 1kg per day feeding 72 DMD silage you will require 5-5.5kg of concentrates per day supplementation. Whereas, if you had a poorer quality silage of 64 DMD, the concentrate supplementation would be as high 8.5kg. Silage testing allows you to provide the most economical and nutritional diet available.

Target Live Weight Gain – It is important to know what you are working toward, when choosing any diet. In a typical silage and meal diet, the table below shows targeted live weight gain.

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tractor spreading agri lime

Calcium Agri Lime – The Backbone of Soil Fertility

The lime kilns dotted through the countryside are a testament to the hard work and dedication of how our ancestors cared for their soils. In an era before synthetic fertilisers – agri lime; farmyard manure, seaweed etc. were the only fertilisers available to farmers.

There was no such thing as soil sampling, but the benefits of liming soils were well regarded and considered essential to productive farming. So much so that 50 years ago we were spreading 1.6 million tons of lime. In 1983, we spread over 2 million tons. Since 1985, we have struggled to spread 1 million tons each year, until 2018, when over 1 million ton was applied. The consequence being, that over half of our soils are below the optimum pH for grassland and tillage.

In general, agri lime was spread 1 in 5, so 20% of farm was limed each year in rotation. The advent of regular soil testing has served to help us decide what we don’t need, and our decisions are based on cost and what we can get away with doing. Lime rather than being an investment, is seen as a cost and as it is a relatively low cost in comparison to synthetic fertilisers, it is seen as less beneficial and can be done without.

Lime is the backbone of any fertiliser program, a regular approach to spreading lime helps to spread the cost. €10 per acre spread over 5 years, is a small cost when the benefits are clearly visible and obvious. Low pH is usually to blame when fields are not performing as they used to or as you would expect.

In Wexford, most soils are predominately high in Magnesium, if this nutrient is in excess it has a greater bearing on the pH and will often be seen, as lime not required, as pH is deemed adequate. This soil is in fact deficient in Calcium. If your soil is deficient in Calcium, so are your crops and your animals. The direct consequence of this is more diseases and deficiencies in crops and conversely in the animals that eat them.

High Magnesium soils in Wexford are usually deficient in Calcium. Ironically, they can also be deficient in available Magnesium to the plant. We only ever worry about nutrients that are deficient. A nutrient in excess is as detrimental to crop growth, as one that is lacking. Another consequence of high Magnesium is that it blocks out Potash in the plant. On a high Mg soil, you will still need to apply Potash, even if index is showing ok.

There is only one lime needed in Wexford and that is Calcium lime (Calcium Carbonate). There are no limestone quarries in Wexford. Lime is predominately hauled from Kilkenny and Carlow. Coastal areas in south Wexford, in particular, are high in Magnesium due to presence of low-lying marine till. High levels of Magnesium in the soil cause it to stick together and become hard when it dries out. People often wonder why their light soil acts like a heavy soil, and this is the reason. Applying Calcium in the form of Calcium Carbonate or Gypsum (Calcium Sulphate) will raise the level of Calcium in the soil and conversely reduce the level of Magnesium. Even if the pH looks ok, you can still add Calcium lime in this situation. 1T acre is sufficient in this situation to add Calcium to the soil. This opens the soil, allowing it to breathe, soil biology to flourish and water to drain down through the soil profile more easily. High iron content is also a sign of a Calcium deficiency.

Wexford is one of the few areas in Ireland where liming decisions should not be based solely on pH level.

The levels of Calcium and Magnesium also need to be consulted and a course of action taken to correct them. The only way this can be done is through a comprehensive soil sample, measuring every nutrient rather than just pH P, K and Mg.

The benefits of liming land are well researched. For mineral soils, farmers should aim to maintain soils at pH 6.3 for grassland and 6.5 for tillage. Optimising the pH of grassland soils can increase the annual output of grass by at least 1tDM/ha which, according to Teagasc, is worth €181/tonne of grass dry matter (DM). Using lime alone can release up to 80kg of Nitrogen/ha per year from the soil for use by grass. In monetary terms this equates to a return on investment of 7:1. Now is the time to act on your soil samples and get lime spread on your land.

 

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tractor mowing grass silage

Maximising Grass and Silage Growth

Over the past number of weeks, we have experienced very little grass growth due to a 75mm soil moisture deficit. Growth rates in this area dropped to around 30kg DM/ha which led to a lot of animals receiving a buffer feed. Luckily, we have got a welcome dash of rain over the past few days which in the presence of available nutrients has brought growth levels back up to 90kg DM/ha. As we are all starting from low farm covers, we need to maximise growth to deal with the recent shortfall of grass production. First cut silage has also been affected by drought conditions with 25-30% reduction in yields being reported locally. The quality of this first cut silage should be very good and most crops were saved in great conditions.

Grazing ground

Nitrogen N

Paddocks that have received nitrogen in the past few weeks should take this up now. Fields that have not been spread for over 3 to 4 weeks should get nitrogen immediately. The increased growth after the rain should enable 2 units a day to be taken up.

Phosphorous P

P is a key driver of growth, root development, and grass tillering. Available P will help stressed plants recover and promote water and nutrient uptake. In addition, it will promote grass tiller development to help swards recover after the dry spell. Therefore, apply low to medium rates of P in your next fertiliser application. Low index soils will require larger amounts of P depending on when they last received it. Earlier spring applications of P in low index ground will need to be topped up at this stage as P is locked up in these soils.

Potassium K

K has a major role to play in the uptake and regulation of water within the plant. Now more than ever sufficient levels of soil available and applied K will be essential for the plants to withstand drought and aid rapid recovery. K at sufficient levels will keep good quality leaf in the grass and stop it from droughting out, pushing up a seed head and going to stem. Stem has one third less feed value to the cow as green leaf.

Sulphur S

Sulphur increases the efficiency of N uptake which is very important at this time of the year. Sulphur aids in plant protein production and therefore grass that has sulphur will remain higher in protein and retain feeding quality later into the season. Sulphur should be a part of all fertiliser applications. In most cases an application of a compound containing N P K S will be the best solution to get farm covers back up where they need to be. Take the full advantage of the growth while we have it to build up much needed reserves.

Silage ground

The present damp dull weather makes it ideal for slurry applications. Most slurry spread during the dry spell will have lost all its nitrogen content. It is important to know your offtake when it comes to spreading your second cut silage, with each tonne of dry matter removing 25 kg (20 units) of N, 4 kg (3 units) of P, 25 kg (20 units) of K and 4 kg (3 units) of S. In low index P we must add 10 kg (8 units) per index lower than 3 and in low index K 30 kg (24 units) per index lower than 3. In general, we are low in sulphur so as a rule of thumb it is best apply 15 to 20 units per acre for your second cut. A 3 tonne DM/ha crop on an index 3, 3 will take 75N 12P 75K and 12 to 15 S out of your soil.

 

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