At least it’s only February. I’ve said this phrase countless times over the last few weeks to console myself when there appears to be no let-up in the wind and rain. I’d much rather it now than in April, that’s for sure. With little respite from the incessant rain and gales, the past month has been similar to February 2014.
Storm Darwin was among one of the storms to come through and it took with it part of the calving shed roof. I was in there at the time and it was a scary place to see with no let up in the gale, as it shook the roof before ripping of a bay of it and landing it 200 metres away on a ditch. There were a handful of shed roofs lost in the locality back then.
I’m glad we’ve pushed the calving date back since then. There was a time when over 50 per cent were calved before the end of February and I was flat out bedding down sheds as numbers grew and there was pressure on to get cows and calves out due to space even when weather was bad. I’ll hardly hit five per cent calved for February 29 this time around. Fertiliser spreading from where it used to be; otherwise it would be washed away.
If weather conditions improve, grazing for the young stock will get underway, and with fences in order, it looks like there should be a few empty pens in the shed over the next fortnight.
Time can pass fast in the lifetime of a farm. A heifer calf born recently displayed the speed of genetic change that can happen. She is the fourth generation born in her line since 2014. Her mother was the third first-calver in a row in her family to have a heifer calf; and all of them were kept for breeding. She’s also the fourth generation to be tested for BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea). There has been a national eradication scheme in place for this disease that affects the immune system in cattle since 2013
Having taken part in the voluntary year of BVD eradication in 2012, we are now in the ninth year of testing. I was talking to a friend of mine about it recently, when I got curious about how many generations were tested here on this farm and realised the calf born that morning was the fourth: I’m a terrible man for boring stats like that.
While the number of positives has greatly reduced, the BVD eradication programme should be a valuable lesson to all stakeholders on future disease eradication measures. It is in danger of becoming an industry of its own – indeed, there are some who would say it already is. Hopefully it won’t go down the same road as TB eradication. It would make me think twice about doing another voluntary scheme anyway.
Between October 2018 and June 2019, I hosted three separate inspectors or auditors. One was for TAMS, another for spot check and the third for a Bord Bia audit. There was nothing overly strenuous about any of them, but it made me wonder about the role of the farm in the economy.
I fully understand that, as farmers, we are the primary producer and our basic economic function is to provide the raw materials for the other parts of the industry. But there are times where it feels like we’re being used to create tertiary sector jobs, almost for the sake of it.
The anger felt over this bubbled to the surface, or some might say erupted, in 2019 and resulted in a series of protests because a significant proportion of farmers got fed up of it.
Because of reduced EU money and the future income needs of the younger generations entering farming, I think we are likely to see a fall-off in farm numbers, particularly in dry stock over the next decade. Will that lead to more on-farm inspections or audits for those left farming?
A fall in farm numbers means that those outside the farm gate will have to ask themselves – how do you make money from those who aren’t making money?
Calving on a lot of farms is well under way with a significant proportion well past the halfway stage. It’s beginning to show in marts with over 1,300 calves on sale in Bandon marts last February sale.
Rough seas have impacted on prices for export type Friesian bull calves. If sailings are cancelled or trucks aren’t allowed to travel the knock on effect at sales is resulting in those calves being back about €20/head on sales held during calmer weather.
While stagnation remains the order of the day for beef prices there has been a bit of good news for West Cork dairy farmers with both Carbery and Dairygold increasing their prices for January milk. The board of Carbery Group increased its milk price by 1c/l. The increase of 1c/l reflects a rise in the base price of 1.5c/l and a 0.5c/l reduction in the support being paid from its stability fund.
The January 2020 price equates to a 30.7c/l excluding VAT.
Dairygold suppliers saw its base price for January milk supplies rise by 0.5c/l to 30.06c/l, excluding VAT.
I walked past some of the new hedging planted over the winter and it’s beginning to get its Ardfield, windswept look. It’s currently sitting at a variety of angles away from the prevailing south westerly winds, so a bit of hedgerow management will be required to get it back in shape.
Due to the mild temperatures, it’s beginning to bud. Once it gets going, it will be a good shelter option for calves, but it will need a bit of looking after before it thickens out. If the rain would stop I might get after that job or at lest work it in around calving duty over the next few weeks. There’ll be no shortage of things to do over March.