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Matt Ryan

Management Hints

June 2024


  • This aspect of your farming requires your serious attention NOW!
  • Recently, Gillian Delehanty, agricultural scientist, Tipperary County Council, gave an on-farm talk and assessment to a discussion group on this topic. It was non-threatening but simple, good advice on some of the steps farmers should take to improve local water quality. 
  • All farmers are worried about enforcement but if we know what to do and then act, we will have nothing to worry about.
    • Prosecution is the last step of a five-step enforcement measure.
    • Many (250) on-farm inspections are planned for this year. This is to increase to 350 in 2025.
  • We MUST improve the quality of our domestic water supply and in our streams and rivers. Gillian’s suggestions will go a long way toward achieving that aim. These are outlined below.
  • Minimisation of soiled water
    • ‘An occupier of a holding shall take all reasonable steps as are necessary for the purpose of minimising the amount of soiled water produced on the holding’.
    • Common breaches:
      • Gutters and downpipes broken or missing.
      • Clean water allowed to flow into soiled yards.
    • Feeding yards diverted to slatted tanks or clean water system.
  • Organic fertiliser – storage and management
    • ‘Livestock manure must be collected and held prior to landspreading in a manner that prevents run off/seepage to ground or surface water’.
    • Common breaches:
      • Inadequate or poorly constructed channels or no channels anywhere.
      • Automatic scrapers can result in slurry accumulating outside the shed.
      • Seepage from straw bedded sheds (eg. calf house).
      • Overflowing slatted tanks, farmyard manure (FYM) pits and effluent tanks.
  • FYM storage
    • Few have any dedicated FYM pit. Why?
    • Build up under stock in sheds, but this limited.
    • Stored on silage pit – not really practical and effluent is often discharged to surface water drainage systems.
    • Dumped on back of silage pit or shed – not satisfactory.
    • Remember, there is significant seepage from FYM pits.
    • Note the following:
      • The spreading period is from January 12 to the November 1. Field storage is ok after January 12 but it cannot be within 20m of an open watercourse; and it cannot be within 50m-250m of a drinking water extraction point.
    • FYM pits must have an effluent collection tank, which must be leak proof, while effluent must be stored for 16 weeks.
  • Organic fertiliser – structural integrity
    • ‘Storage facilities for livestock manure and other organic fertilisers, soiled water and effluent from dungsteads, FYM pits or silage pits shall be maintained free of structural defects’.
    • Common breaches:
      • Tanks cracked or leaking.
      • Silage pits with poor surfaces or cracks.
      • Dungsteads.
      • FYM pits.
  • Slurry and soiled water spreading
    • Common breaches: 
      • Spreading outside the following window allowances.
      • October 1 to January 12.
      • 100m-200m from public water supply.
      • 25m from a well.
      • 15m from karst feature, eg. swallow hole or sinking stream.
      • 5m-10m from watercourses (10 weeks applies to two weeks prior to and two weeks post closed period).
      • Upward-facing splash plates, rain guns, or irrigators.
      • Spreading from public roads or farm/cow roadways,
      • Spreading on wet, waterlogged, or frozen ground.
  • Silage pits and baled silage
    • Common breaches:
      • Very poor surfaces.
      • No walls.
      • Blocked effluent channels.
      • No channels.
      • Channels diverted to drains or watercourses.
      • Diversion sump forgotten about.
      • Effluent escaping.
      • Baled silage must be situated at least 20m from a watercourse or water extraction point.
  • Cow roads
    • ‘There must be no direct run-off of soiled water from roadways to water courses’ (came into effect on January 1, 2021).
    • Very significant amounts of sediment are washed into streams.
    • More of a problem now as herds are larger.
    • Solutions:
      • Silt traps.
      • Cambering away from drains.
      • Re-locating paddock entrance.
      • Planting trees, shrubs, etc. between roadway and watercourse.
      • Divert as much rainwater off the roadway as possible.
  • De-sludging your septic tank
    • Don’t mix with animal slurry – limit the area receiving it.
    • De-sludge from September to October – this allows six months before grazing in March.
    • Be aware of the Dairy Quality Assurance Scheme restrictions.
    • Don’t de-sludge your family or neighbour’s domestic wastewater treatment system – you need a waste collection permit for this.
    • De-sludge every two to three years.
  • Your ‘to-do-list’
    • Check out your farmyard (and outfarm/land) on to see a bird’s eye view of any obvious signs of pollution from your farmyard.
    • Check out to establish the water quality in streams and rivers near you.
    • Check your cow roadways during and after heavy rain.
    • Check where the surface water is going – any signs of sewage fungus?
    • Walk drains/streams/rivers adjacent or close by for evidence of pollution.
    • Clean channels.
    • Put in kerbs to help contain slurry/soiled water in yards.
    • Check gutters and downpipes.
    • Do FYM pits meet the requirements?
    • Carefully examine silage pits.
    • Minimise soiled water yards and install soiled water tank.
  • Because of the importance of water quality, many more farm inspections are going to occur. Be prepared and do your bit!


    • With little or no reserves of silage from winter 2023-2024, serious planning needs to take place now if you are to avoid a problem this coming winter.
    • Most farmers are struggling to get adequate-sized first-cut silage this year.
      • All weather related.
      • All the discussion around nitrogen is influencing the amount of nitrogen used in the year to date.
      • Hence, a shortage of grass for grazing has prevented farmers closing up silage ground, even though a lot of light, early silage was cut in May.
      • By mid-June you should have 80% to 90% of your silage in the pit – this won’t be achieved.
      • If falling short of that target, you must do something about it.

Table 1: Cost per tonne utilisable dry matter of forage winter feeds. Source: Teagasc, Moorepark, April 2023.


Grazed grass

Grass + white clover

First & second cut pit silage

First & second cut bale silage

Three-cut red clover

Maize silage**

Fodder beet

Purchased rolled barley (€360/t)

Relative cost to grass per energy utilised (UFL)*










* This value excludes land charge associated with feeds. If you include land charge, purchased barley is 2.9 tonnes more expensive than grazed grass.

** Includes a land charge.

    • Check now:
      • The quantity of silage you have – allow for dry silage.
      • The amount of silage you require. 
      • The following is each animal’s requirement in kg DM/day:
        cow = 11kg; in-calf heifer = 9kg; and a weanling = 5kg. 
      • Thus, you will be able to calculate your deficit.
    • Check what you have in pit or in bales to date – every 45ft3 holds one tonne of silage in a pit.
    • What are the choices, if short now?
      • Grow more grass and cut more silage.
      • Grow forage crops.
      • Buy silage, either on shank, in bales or pit silage.
      • Buy fodder beet, maize, whole crop or palm kernal/soya hulls.
      • Reduce stocking rate now or carry less stock next winter.
  • The basic principle for June is to keep growing as much grass as you possibly can:
      • For second cut, apply N (80 units) and use the equivalent of two bags 0:7:30 per acre to supply phosphorous (P) and potassium (k) but more where fertility is low.
      • Stock the cows and cattle at 3.5 to 3.8 livestock units/ha on the grazing area, so that you can close up larger areas for silage cutting.
      • You should only top pastures as a last resort because it is a grass-wasting exercise and something we can’t afford this year. If grass is getting strong, take out the surplus as round bales.
    • Kale or rape are options to consider–discussed below – but they must be sown now.
    • Some farmers are grossly over stocked, carrying poor milkers, high somatic cell count/mastitis-prone cows and lame cows. Sell off now.
      • Use milk-recording data and personal knowledge to weed them out.
    • If short, you cannot justify having too many replacement units on the farm – there might be a case for treating the very poor ones as beef animals as the trade for them has been poor.


    • Achieve grazing targets to provide adequate quality grazing grass.
    • The following are the grass-cover targets for various grazing stocking rates in kg DM per hectare that drive grass quality and yield during June:

Stocking (SR) rate

Pre-grazing cover

Average farm cover


 (SR x 18 x 21+50)*

(SR x 180)**













*Stocking rate x daily allowance x rotation length + residual = Kg DM/ha.

**Stocking rate x recommended cover per cow = kg DM/ha.

  • This is basic, fundamental knowledge required to manage grass to best effect.
      • Farmers are very slow to act on the wedge data – remember grass grows grass and low covers grow less.
    • If you are under these target covers you will run short of grass and if over these, grass will get too stemmy. Cows will under-perform if either of these two situations arise.
    • The advised grazing stocking rate for June and July is 3.5 to 3.9 cows/ha.
    • To grow grass, you need nitrogen (28 kg/ha) and sulphur (15-20 units to year-end) now.
      • Spread any remaining slurry on second-cut silage fields on ‘damp’ days.
    • Spread lime on bare silage fields earmarked for grazing and other ‘bare’ grazing fields that need lime.
      • Generally, all fields need two tonnes/acre of lime every two to three years.


    • Forage crops – kale, forage rape, redstart, swedes and stubble turnips – may be an option worth considering if you are to be short of winter feed.
      • You still have time to sow all these now, but swedes must be sown before mid-June.
    • These crops have a few advantages:
      • They can fill a winter-feed deficit and allow animals to have shorter indoor housing requirements.
      • They can be grown on another farm.
      • But they are weather dependent for feeding, fencing/allocation of feed and mineral supplementation – challenges to be overcome during winter.
    • Table 1 outlines the cost per tonne of dry matter (DM) utilised. 
    • Table 2 outlines sowing dates, grazing dates, possible yields, seeding rates and some general management considerations.

Table 2: Summary of forage crop management.





 Stubble turnips

Sowing date

May to June

Mid-June to

to June

June, July, Aug

Grazing date

       Aug to Feb

     Sept to Feb

Oct to Feb

Oct to Feb

(tonne DM/ha)

            6 to 9

         6 to 8

6 to 9

3 to 4

Seeding rate (kg/acre)

        1.6 to 2.0

4.5 if broadcast

3.5 to 4

to 0.4

2 if broadcast


3 if broadcast



Easy to manage.

Good feed value.

Weed may be an issue.


Ready to graze 90-110 days post sowing.

Good regrowth.

If feeding cattle, best to store and feed through diet feeder.

Introduce gradually.

Not winter hardy.

Roughage and minerals required.


    • Let us examine kale a little more because it is the most frequently used. An 8 tonne/ha crop of kale will be the cheapest source of feed next winter.
      • It is 80% dry matter digestibility (DMD), as good as barley. 
      • It and fodder beet will cost less than €1.50/day to feed a cow next winter. 
      • The expected yield is 8-12 tonnes DM/ha with early-June sowing.
      • A 10-tonne/ha average crop and allocating 4kg and 7.5kg, respectively, to weanlings and cows per day (with another roughage), the crop will feed 40 weanlings or 20 cows for 60 days.
      • The weanlings and cows will gain 0.6kg and 0.25kg, respectively, per day.
    • Sow where fields need to be reseeded or after first cut silage.
    • Requirements:
    • Sow in early June – thereafter one tonne/ha/week DM is lost.
    • A fine, firm seed bed is essential.
    • Seed can be drilled or broadcast (need higher seeding rate) at 4.5kg/ha to 5kg/ha.
    • Sow kale once per five years in same field to avoid clubroot.
    • You need a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0.
    • Nitrogen: It needs 100kg/ha (80units/acre) split in two applications, the second one at the two to three-leaf stage.
    • For a soil index 3, apply 30 P (24/acre) and 170 K(140/acre) at sowing. Poorer soils require more.
    • Watch out for pests as the crop develops.
    • There should be a run-back area available to the animals during feeding.


  • We are now in the most difficult part of the breeding season because fewer cows are in heat.
  • You must ‘up’ your heat observation efforts.
  • If more than 25% of cows are repeating then you have a problem.
    • Look at the repeat trends and analyse the situation.
    • Consult your vet.
  • Bull late calvers at 35-40 days after calving with a young test bull (easy calving with a minus 7+ days for calving interval). The same principle applies to repeat AI bulls being used.
  • Some farmers with infertile herds are scanning cows served more than 32-40 days to confirm pregnancy.
    • A great idea.
    • You can’t do this unless you have exact records of when first served.
  • Farmers must use five straws for every heifer required next year – use beef AI from then on. If using a stock bull be aware of the following:
    • One young bull to every 20 empty cows. 
      • One mature bull to every 20-30 empty cows.
      • When using two bulls, rotate them every 24 hours so that they can rest and feed themselves.
      • If possible, avoid bulls having to walk cow distances and particularly not have around collecting yards.
    • Don’t use him if you haven’t done all the checks on him:
      • Confirm that he is fertile.
      • Confirm that he has all vaccines that your cows get.
      • Confirm that he is in good health and not lame.


You must know target weights so that you can make sure animals achieve the correct calving down weights. The following are June targets:


% mature cow

Holstein Fr

Jersey X

Yearlings (R2s):




Calves (R1s):





    • The cow’s mature weight is got by weighing third calvers and older cows in June – worth doing NOW. You can also estimate the herds’ mature weight by using the maintenance data on your herds EBI 
      • Cow maintenance sub-index €20 = 541kg.
      • For every €1 deviation from this, add or subtract 5kg weight
  • You must weigh replacements regularly to make sure you know what’s happening and, therefore, deal with underweight animals. This advice is imperative for contract heifer rearers/farmers with heifers on contract so that no disputes occur later in the year.
    • The key is the six-month weight. It must be:
      • 550kg herd = 165kg.
      • 500kg herd = 150kg.
      • From six months to nine months, we must keep weight gain to 0.7kg to 0.8kg, so as not to deposit fat around the mammary glands.
    • The summer is when you get ‘cheap weight gain in heifers’ – don’t miss out! 
    • R1 stage:
    • Calves must always be on the best grass, with residuals eaten off by 1.5-year-old heifers or cows (Table 3). 
      • This leader-follower system results in best weight gains and natural parasites control and immunity. 

Table 3: Performance (kg) of calves at grass under different grazing systems. Source: Teagasc.

12 weeks

20 weeks

30 weeks


Calves and adults





Calves only





    • Small calves would benefit from milk and/or meals in June.
    • Big calves on good grass require no meals as the economics is poor – the conversion rate is 8:1.
    • Stay on top of parasites such as hoose and stomach worms.
      • Dose for hoose (Table 4 shows a significant weight difference) when oldest calf starts to cough and dose for stomach worms, if not on the Ivermectin programmes, with a white/yellow dose in late June and move onto after-grass.

Table 4: Effect of mild hoose on calf weight gain (kg). Source: Teagasc.

Initial weight

Weight gain

No. of  days


Treated animals





Untreated animals






And dose for stomach worms (Table 5), if not on the Ivermectin programmes, with a white/yellow dose in late June and move onto after-grass. Table 5 shows a weight difference of 24.3 kgs when comparing calves dosed for stomach worms in early-July and those not dosed. Obvious, what to do and when to do.


Table 5: Effect of stomach worms on calf growth (kg). (Source: Teagasc).


Pre July

Post July


Infection controlled




Infection not controlled





    • R2 stage: 
      • Heifers mated after June 12 will calve down after March 22 – it is too late to start calving heifers into a herd. If she hasn’t ‘held’ by now there is something wrong with her – beef her!
      • Underweight heifers may need to be separated out and run with calves on best grass or fed 1kg to 2kg meal separately.


    • If your target is to feed less than 800kg/cow this year, then you should not be feeding more than 1.5kg/cow/day of 10% to 12% ration.
    • Change milk liners after 2,000 milkings:
      • If you have 10 rows being miked twice/day, then each liner has to do 20 milkings per day. Therefore, in that situation the liners need to be changed after 100 days (2,000 divided by 20) milking (3.3 months). If not changed, mastitis and SCC levels will increase.
    • High SCC/mastitis cows:
      • If the cow is a repeat offender, get rid of her.
      • Test the milking machine again and change liners.
      • You will need to pre and post dip all cows to reduce the spread.
      • Dip the clusters in parasetic acid after milking an infected cow.
      • Wear gloves.
      • Consult your co-op adviser.
    • High TBC:
      • Is your bulk tank cooling the milk fast enough? Get it checked out.
      • Is your cleaning procedure correct. 
      • Use your co-op adviser to sort out.
    • Time off:
      • Plan to be only milking five to six days per week – get relief in!
      • Plan to work fewer than 60 hours per week.
      • Plan now, by booking, a two-week holiday away from the farm, preferably, where there is sun.
      • Do a 16-8-hour milking interval, so as to have a half-decent lifestyle.
      • If you are not able to meet these targets, then there is something wrong with the workload you have laid out for yourself or your system is very labour demanding.
      • Thought for the month
      • The cow and the grass respond to your management demands.