Tim, like most farmers, keeps a close eye on the weather. It matters. The cows are due to go to the Lower Inch which is heavy and they can poach it in wet weather.

A bit of poaching is not the end of the world. We try to avoid it if at all possible. It is proving difficult this spring to manage grass and grazing. Every other day is wet.

Last Sunday was very wet here in Cork. It was miserable to work in the wind and driving rain. Still, all I had to do was get to the new calf shed where I was nice and warm. Tim dropped in after milking and I think he was a little envious.

Lovely conditions

“Aren’t you cosy in here in your lovely conditions,” he quipped from within his rain gear. I had even shed my outer layer of protection. I’m enjoying the access in and out of the pens through small gates. I’m thrilled with the ease of hanging feeders on low gates and having wash hoses near at hand along with proper drainage. My workload has been made easier by having proper facilities and a purpose built shed for calf rearing. Consequently, I’m seeing calves with the shiniest of coats and they never stop jumping around and playing. So far, so good.

Be nice

Our first dairy heifer was born on 2 February, making her over three weeks old. Tim had compiled his figures during the day. There were 97 cows calved and 53 remained to calve. Sixty-five of them had heifer calves, mostly from sexed semen, which is a game changer. The remainder are robust angus calves and a few friesian bulls. There was no newly born calf to pick up on Sunday morning which was a welcome little break. It has been a marathon and we’ve coped well. Of course, we are tired but still on top of it and most importantly, still talking to each other. It’s easy to lose the rag with the people around you when the pressure is on. Holding it together for the sake of others makes for a much better working environment. I try to remember that I’m not the only one that is busy and consequently, zip the lip about things that don’t matter in the big picture.


Ask yourself, “Is this really important or can I make do until things have quietened down?” At this time of year, most dairy farms have extra help from employed staff or part-time labour. It is important to treat them with dignity and respect. One way of checking yourself on how you deal with family members is to ask yourself, “Would I speak to someone who works for me the way I speak to my wife, husband, son or daughter?” Have a little think about that. Sometimes, we are not as kind as we should be to our family members who are working with us. Even if you work outside the home and maybe don’t go down the yard, the pressure doesn’t escape you. Meals run late. Sleep is disturbed and your workload is also increased. We’re all in this together and to be honest, the buzz is amazing and satisfaction levels are massive if you allow yourself to enjoy it. I certainly do. Compact calving is intense but the period is short-lived.

Big fry-up

So, on Sunday, Tim made a big fry-up for our lunch. I had Luke, who is doing his Leaving Cert, in the calf shed. He knows the run of things well and is a great and reliable fellow. After lunch, I went for what I thought was a little rest. I slept for three hours. It is necessary for me to grab some sleep when I can. I know I have to pace myself and take my recovery from cancer treatment seriously. Then, Ricky, my grandson, and I went off to feed the last of the calves. Ricky has his jobs and he loves them. After that, we had supper out of the fridge. Around 11pm, I checked the calving camera. Oh dear, there were two calves born and one other well on the way. That made 100 cows calved before midnight on the 25 February. It was one o’clock before I had the three calves fed. Wasn’t I glad of my little rest.

Read more

€4.5m investment to support rural third-level campuses

Meet the Maker: Alice Cummins