Peter Hynes (April 5th) – Breeding is looming fast

After two weeks of glorious sunshine the drop of rain is welcome today. We have 3 rounds of fertiliser spread on the grazing platform and all silage ground has received 3000 gallons of slurry in the pass using low emission spreading. Reducing emissions is a big focus for us on farm, we use all protected urea, with our NPK fertilisers having an inhibitor so they are all urea based. Following todays rain all silage ground will receive fertiliser in the next day or two.

We have been lucky to keep calves moving off farm even with marts closed. AIBP purchased a number of Hereford calves from us by specific Gene Ireland bulls and those calves have moved onto a trial farm where they will be monitored for performance.

Breeding is looming fast, our bull team for 2020 has been ordered. We are using 7 genomic sires including FR4728, FR4760 and 5 G1 bulls. The average EBI for the bull team is €322 EBI and we will also use some of these bulls on our heifers, as we have selected low calving difficulty for heifers. We ran all the bulls through Sire Advice, with all data sent to our AI techs handheld.

We have also selected four bulls from the Gene Ireland beef panel for use on the cows we do not require replacements from. The bulls are HE5452, HE6160, SI4595 and SI5292. We believe in trying to breed quality beef calves, so that we can supply them into Irish beef farms giving them the best chance to produce quality beef cattle. We also purchased a new stock bull a few months ago, namely Leeherd Kestrel, who is a full brother to Leeherd Jake S15292. Kestrel is also genotyped and was fertility tested before he arrived. When we viewed him, he was a bull that really caught our eye, he’s got good height and slick from his head back through his shoulder with good figures to back him up. He spent 6 weeks in isolation to ensure no disease arrived on farm during calving and he is now out in the field enjoying some sunshine and keeping himself fit. We will do 8 – 9 weeks of AI so he will only be used towards the end of breeding.

The latest EBI run has highlighted to us again that our breeding program is working as all high EBI stock is very consistent. Using high EBI genetics is a proven tool to further reduce our emissions on farm.

Cows have been really performing well and gaining body condition, with lots of strong heats. They are averaging 27.5 ltrs a day at 4.08% Fat and 3.44% Protein. First rotation is finished, and they are grazing second rotation covers of 1500 -1600. The key thing now for us is to keep them performing at peak and grass will have to be monitored closely over the next week or two with good growing conditions in the forecast.

With the whole world in the middle of a global pandemic, in some ways we feel removed from it as farming continues. Measures are in place to protect the farm but some days it feels like Coronavirus is happening in a separate world to our farm. I have to say I really do miss friends calling, our farm usually becomes a hive of activity with tour groups from April onwards and the yard seems quiet now. Not having a chance to take a break away for a few days with Paula to recharge the batteries is also a real downer but I suppose it’s a small price to pay in order to protect our health.

We are lucky that we use social media, which is a great way to keep in contact with the outside world and a fantastic way to communicate with the public, showing them what happens on a dairy farm. We’ve also had the opportunity to do some TV work, Fran McNulty contacted us to do a piece for RTE news and Georgie has been doing some videos for RTE HomeSchool. With so much focus on food and keeping supply chains going its good to see farming in the spotlight.

Whilst, now more than ever, we as farmers are even more isolated due to Coronavirus, it is vital we prioritise our mental wellbeing. Workloads continue to run high with so much field work to catch up on.

Simple things we do can make such a difference like eating well and making sure we get a good night sleep. It is so important to take time out, have some family time. The most important thing: we need to do is be honest with ourselves in how we are feeling. If you are struggling or under pressure always remember there is help available and support. Don’t feel alone, as someone will always be at the end of a phone.

As the weeks and possibly months ahead maybe tough for us all, stay safe and healthy and remember we are resilient, we will get through this and normality will return.