BEAM changes: Last week’s announcement will come as a relief to farmers who were looking at paying back considerable amounts of money as a result of being over the current stocking rate requirements. The changes mean that a scheme participant can change their reference from 1 July 2020-30 June 2021 to 1 January 2021-31 December 2021. There were some that hoped the 5% reduction requirement would be scrapped, but it has remained. For farmers opting for the new reference period, it’s important to work on the stocking rate issue early. The longer you leave it to reduce numbers, the bigger the reduction required. The Irish Farmers Journal launched our BEAM calculator on last week and farmers can input figures from the Department of Agriculture and the number of animals in their herd between now and the end of the reference period to see if the herd is on target to meet the reductions. Farmers who are on track to meet the reductions in the original reference period don’t need to do anything. The Department of Agriculture will inform all farmers of how to apply to switch to the new reference period in the coming weeks.

Calving webinar questions: We received a lot of questions during our ‘Calving the Cow’ webinar last Wednesday night. One of the key themes of the night was to be prepared for calving and not to panic if something goes wrong. Cows are generally good at calving and many will calve themselves without requiring any assistance. It’s important not to panic when something does go wrong. Getting help at this point is critical and if you are in doubt, it’s important to seek help early. A lot of questions came in on cryptospirosis. Vet Donal Lynch said it was critical that the calf doesn’t come into contact with faeces. This means clean udders, clean hides and clean calving pens. Answers can be found in the beef section on

Looking after yourself: There’s a really busy few months coming up ahead on suckler and sheep farms. COVID-19 has heaped further pressures on farm and family systems. Juggling a job, a farm, home schooling and throw in a few night calvings and calf scours, it can be easy to let things get on top of you. Make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep – if not every night, at least a couple of nights in the week. Some farmers find feeding cows late at night will help reduce night time calving. Eating properly is also important. Make sure you are getting one hot meal a day and take time to rest during the day if you have been out on the night shift. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably lots of people in the locality stuck at home in the current lockdown who would be only too glad to give a neighbour a dig out during a busy period. Finally, remember to keep up your guard in relation to COVID-19, washing hands regularly, wearing facemasks and reducing social contacts as much as possible. Don’t forget our phone a farmer friend initiative in February. Lift the phone, have the chat – it could mean a lot to someone.