Grass has dominated our workload since the end of May. As I write this, our contractor is busy collecting our second cut silage in glorious sunshine.
We mowed and turned the crop ourselves. The 70ac crop looks respectable considering how little rain we’ve had over the past two months.
Luckily we haven’t had to buffer this summer; On a few occasions we came close, but the rain came at the last minute and allowed for a growth spurt.
Grass availability was also increased by putting aftergrass back into the pasture block.
We embroidered red clover at a rate of 2.5 kg/ac in a 10 ac silage grass meadow on May 24th. She received 2,000 gallons/ac of water mud along with a bag of .7.30.
Germination looked good although the N in the manure seemed to drive grass growth so we lightly grazed the field with the cows at the end of June to allow light to the new clover plants and clover formation has been impressive since.
It is planned to take at least one bale cut from the field this season, which should yield high-quality protein-rich forage for cows.
For us it’s a trial and error project; Time will tell if using a higher rate of red clover seed would have been better. It’s something we will continue to add to silage fields to reduce our reliance on chemical nitrogen.
We also stitched white clover in four paddocks over 17ac in June. All paddocks were mowed for excess bales to ensure a good clean residue then we set rates of 2kg/ac and 3kg/ac followed by 1500 gallons of watery manure and barn wash.
Germination seems to be good as the rains started a few days after planting. We will see in good time which set of clover suits our farm best, as we also need good grass cover for early grazing in February.
The last big job of the summer is to harvest 25cc of haylage; we have mowed it now.
Hopefully this will cover our winter feed needs, apart from the sugar beet we ordered from our contractor for the fall calves.
At the beginning of September, the silo store with all the bale stacks is analyzed to see where we can best use the different forage qualities.
We recently welcomed Prof. Frank Mitloehner from the University of California along with Eddie Phelan from Alltech to our farm. Frank has extensive knowledge of livestock emissions and he highlighted how, as a food producer, I use the power of the sun to create cellulose in grass, which our cows in turn convert into a nutrient-dense protein food source for humans.
This is sustainable food production, he stressed, and combined with a farm with lots of hedges and mature trees, it’s undoubtedly good for the climate.
However, he acknowledged that we Irish farmers face a challenge in continuing current levels of sustainable food production, as the narrative here seems to be to shift food production to less sustainable countries to protect Ireland from a climate perspective make the paper look better.
I’ve always believed that we need to breed animals that produce less methane, but Frank corrected me and pointed out that all we need to do is identify the genes that emit less methane.
Animals that emit less are more efficient from a climate and production perspective as they convert more methane into meat or dairy products.
He said if Ireland was serious about global warming we would allow science and research to give us solutions to reduce agricultural emissions – he is sure feed additives will play a part in that reduction.
Our discussion left me in a positive mood: we must continue to make improvements on the farm while embracing new methods to further improve our sustainability.
However, short-sighted decision-makers could take the easier route by simply reducing livestock.
Instead of thinking about climate change here, we’re enjoying the glorious sunshine and looking forward to the YMA National Championships. My daughters Georgie and Becky both qualified – for the first time – as handlers, along with two calves.
Peter Hynes farms with his wife Paula in Aherla, Co Cork
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/dairy-advice/peter-hynes-why-we-are-stitching-red-clover-into-our-silage-swards-41838848.html Peter Hynes: Why we sew red clover into our grass silage