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Irish Dairy Farming (Autumn)

February 24, 2021

During Autumn grass growth is beginning to slow down. Usually by the end of October cattle are ready to be housed again as the weather gets worse. Come October dairy cows milk yields drop to very low levels which leads to a drying off period. The farmer dries off the whole herd and the dairy herd remain in this dry period until they give birth in the Spring usually February or March. By drying off the cows lets them relax stress free while in the closing stages of their pregnancy.

Some dairy farmers who plant Maize crop cut the crop in late September/October. Maize is used as feed during the winter months for cattle. It is usually mixed with silage with a diet feeder which mixes silage, maize, straw and ration together. Maize crop is extremely high in energy and starch levels that pregnant cows need during the winter. Some farmers who had cows that calved late in the year feed this high energy diet to their milking cows. Maize helps increase milk yields and protein during the winter season.

The Autumn season tends to be reasonably quiet for farmers. Farmers usually reseed some of their fields during the Autumn. The farmer sprays the field to kill off old grass, he then ploughs the ground turning the soil and then the ground is harrowed (soil is broken up). Once the ground is harrowed new grass seeds are sowed into the ground. This is done at the beginning of Autumn when the weather is milder. This allows the grass seeds to come up before the cold winter season. This is known as reseeding.

All paddocks and fields are closed until Spring. Fields are closed because animals would damage the ground by poaching. The land is very wet and heavy in Ireland during this time of the year. Animals are quite heavy and when walking on the ground compact the soil and poach it. Fields are easily damaged and wont recover in time for Spring to grow young leafy grass.

Dairy farmers who also own beef cattle usually send the cattle to the mart during the Autumn. Beef cattle are usually fattened during the summer on fresh summer grass and concentrates. Once cattle have to be brought in to be housed the farmer has to decide which cattle won’t be housed and sent to the mart instead. Each year the farmer has new replacement cattle from his/she spring calves. There is not enough room to house all cattle. This the beef cycle in dairy farming.

Hedge cutting is also an important task that begins at around this time of year. Farmers are often asked to help with hedge cutting on countryside roads, and this can continue all the way through until March. They will have to stop hedge cutting by then, as there are likely to be birds in hedgerows. Autumn blossoms include aster and cyclamen.

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