A hard morning with an air frost brought a welcome crispness. The ground had firmed up and walking to the farmyard was easier. There was no need for the outer wet weather defences from the elements. It allowed me to be alert, listening to the sounds that broke the morning instead of the squeak of clothing. I couldn’t deny the far away noise of morning traffic. I have learned to ignore it and focus on the beautiful sounds of the farm animals and the humans that work with them. As I neared the dairy, the familiar hum of the bulk tank cooling the milk signalled that the business of milk production was well and truly underway.

The tank shone as dawn broke, having got a serious spring wash from our new apprentice, Sinéad. The water pump whined, indicating that cows and heifers were up and drinking. Colm installed a new reservoir water tank to make sure that we have plenty of water in storage to carry us for a few days in the event of a shortage. The yard is on the council supply and is prone to interruptions due to leaking pipes. The dark green tank now fills a space by the meal bins.

Across the way, stands the new calf shed. Thankfully, it was silent, meaning that the calves were still sleeping. New developments bring interest and advancement. If the business is not changing and growing, there is a huge risk of stagnation of mind and progression.


The birds were in full song. They are busy nesting. The starlings are very noisy. It’s mating time and the male’s hammering call sounded out in the dairy. The female was chattering away merrily with a few screeches thrown in. I interrupted them as I passed through and they fluttered off, giving out. As that noise faded, I heard the familiar sound of a cow lowing gently to her calf. It had just been born.

I did what I had come to do, record the event in my little white ICBF notebook and place an identification band around the calf’s neck. I entered the information into the WhatsApp, “Woodside Calving 2024” group. My notification read: “2187 Aa heifer, Band 1”. It contained all the information necessary for Colm to tag and register the calf. The rest he would find himself in the notebook. I breathed a sigh of relief that there was only one calf after a very busy weekend. I put the colostrum warming and returned to the house for my breakfast.

News travels fast when there’s a new facility in town. The guests arrive in groups of four or five by carriage

Five-star hotel

I’m very busy and so happy to be able to be part of our farming life again. I’m running a five-star hotel for the very young. My guests are extremely happy and my aim is to keep some of them for 10 to 12 weeks as necessary. Others will move off sooner. Occupancy is running at 30% and climbing. News travels fast when there’s a new facility in town. The guests arrive in groups of four or five by carriage. It resembles an open-top cable car. It has been designed and engineered by Colm. They land and are shown to comfortable quarters immediately.

These guests are a bit demanding, expecting the sheets to be changed daily. That’s probably acceptable given that they sleep most of the day. My facility is a bit like Fawlty Towers with the staff not quite on the page yet. When I returned home yesterday evening after a few hours away, I found a section of the front hall wet.Manuel thought sweeping was a bit too difficult so he used a pressurised hose instead. If there’s one thing my guests don’t like, it’s a wet atmosphere. I forgot to remind Manuel of this fact. These guests like super-king beds with a layer of yellow memory foam on top. The beds have a great slope and are made of wood chip. The memory foam is top quality, having been sourced in big square bales by Tim. Meals are table service at the moment. We have an automated system that some guests are trying out. It will be interesting to see how the young guests find it. In 40 years our calf rearing facilities have gone from two-star to five-star.

What a journey it has been and I continue to enjoy every minute of it.

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