I dropped Ricky to play school. “I want to carry my own bag,” said the little boy, struggling into it. I turned the car, ever mindful that little children are about. It was a big day in our farming world. It was scanning day on both farms. With Sense Hub for heat detection around the cows’ necks, there are few surprises. I drove into the farmyard. Leo Healy was already out of his red van and getting into his disposable white suit. He was surprised to see me. He told me I looked strong! It was the best compliment in the world. Then he struggled into his back pack that contained the scanner just as Ricky had done. That is probably a movement that I have lost from my recent surgery. Part of my latissimus dorsi muscle has been removed. I’m not worried about it as I won’t be backpacking around the world anytime soon!

Scanning results

Scanning is such a nice day. It marks the end of the breeding season and promises a reduced workload for farmers and cows over the dry period before the cycle starts all over again. It can be a day of ups and downs. A favourite cow turns up empty and a cranky cow secures another season! The cows filed into the parlour. One girl stopped advancing. Instinctively, I reached up with my left hand to give her a pat of encouragement on the side. The reach was inadequate and the pat too weak to be felt by the cow.

For a second, I felt deflated. I expect to have reduced movement and strength after the surgery. Yet, it is a bit of a shock when I feel it in everyday activities. “Push them up,” came the voice from the collecting yard. I changed hands to encourage the cow. Colm jumped into the pit and took over telling me to go to the other cow stand. I am taking it easy and resting. I find being involved in the farming activities as much as I can very therapeutic. It passes the days as I get stronger. My job on scanning day was to enter the results on the breeding sheets. That I could do without getting in harm’s way.

The breeding season must be short to ensure compact calving in the spring.

Leo worked through the cows quickly. Scanning a bit later in the season means that many were 100 to 120 days in calf so Leo could detect the calf on the outside. There was a bit of a grey area between 90 and 100 days with some calves evident and some not. Any cow under 90 days in-calf meant Leo had to do an internal scan. Consequently, his white suit was slowly turning green! Once Colm’s herd was done we headed home to Woodside. I asked Leo if he needed a break. “Two minutes!” he answered to have a snack. What a work ethic.

All went well with the home girls, too. We had a 12% empty rate (cows not in calf) over the two herds. We were happy with that given the short breeding season of nine weeks and having used sexed semen.

The breeding season must be short to ensure compact calving in the spring.

Cows are in exceptional condition after a great grass growing summer. The following day, Tim and Ricky invited me on their grass drive (as opposed to a grass walk). The average grass growth came in at 95kg dry matter/hectare; the highest for the season to date. One field had grown 770kg DM/hectare in one week; phenomenal growth for this time of year. The grass rotation has stretched to 35 days and will be heading to 40 days on the next and last rotation as grass covers of 2,000 are grazed. The dropping milk price is a serious worry. That needs to stabilise fast to avoid major pressure on farm family incomes.

Ploughing 2023

I was looking forward to the Ploughing Championships and hoping to attend. I love spending the three days working with the wonderful IFJ team and meeting readers. I have an appointment with my oncologist about next steps on the Thursday, so decided to do two days.

Then, I had a rethink and we planned that we would stay with friends and go for one day. Tim and I were out last Sunday for the afternoon and had a lovely evening with our friends, Evelyn and Michael Kearney. I was very tired the next day. So, I have to be sensible and stay away from Ratheniska. Have a good one folks.

Read more

Katherine's Country: patient care has many faces

Craughill barn birthday celebrations