Without wanting to sound too morose and, dare I say it, a ‘stereotypically grumpy farmer’, it has been a tough year for farmers this year. Between the late, very wet, very cold spring which meant winter extended into May, and then a drought during the summer, it’s been a year that involved a lot of extra work as we were still doing winter work for weeks during the heatwave. Without even thinking about the bank balance, a lot of farmers are feeling pretty tired and burnt out.
However, we’re getting great weather this October and hopefully it will last into November. If we can keep livestock out for that bit longer, it will make all the difference to fodder stocks, workload and morale. We’re closing up fields now so that grass growth this autumn will be available in the spring but it’s great to be able to get cows in and out of lush fields easily without the cows mucking things up. Some farmers have experienced a loss of livestock through bloat as a result of grazing aftergrass and we’re giving cows some extra fibre by providing them with straw before they go out after the evening milking. We’re also giving them soya hulls as a buffer feed. Buffering with silage starts this weekend but as long as the weather stays fairly dry, Mother Nature is making up for the disasters earlier in the year.
It’s incredible how sunshine and autumnal colours and blue skies can lift your mood. As I was doing my usual morning job driving the loader up to 16 calves to give them their ration, I stopped for a minute to look around. The tune and words of Imelda May’s song came into my brain ‘Oh my god, it’s good to be alive’ and it is. To be healthy enough to be able to work, to experience the beauty of the morning through all my senses of being able to see such beauty, feel the frosty cold and hear the birdsong; to be able to climb over gates, lift buckets of cattle ration, chat to the cows; it all means it’s great to be alive.
It’s supposed to get very cold from Friday and weather forecasts vary as to whether we’re going to get soaked over the weekend or whether the rain will stay out in the Atlantic so we’ll have to wait and see.
Ireland has seen tough weather before. The snow of 1947 lasted for months. The droughts of 1976 and 1995 also caused problems. The long winter of 2013 is still fixed in our memories. It will be a while before 2018 fades from our minds but we’re on the final lap of it I guess.
If you would like to read about three generations of our family farm, do pick up a copy of Till the Cows Come Home from any bookshops or from Amazon.