It was one of those unseasonably balmy afternoons last week as I rounded a yard corner in the red jeep.
The cattle immediately spied me in an adjacent field and ran gleefully towards the gate, one large black whitehead kicking his heels up into the air with excitement.
They knew a meal breakfast was on the way, albeit later than usual, and keenly awaited the gate to be opened with a mad bullish rush to the trough.
But this bovine exuberance on this day was poignant for me.
I quietly thought, if they knew where they we were going, they wouldn’t be so happy. In fact, they wouldn’t come in at all.
Fool that I am, I have become attached to cattle
After all, they were about to eat their last meal on a pleasant October afternoon before being loaded up in an hour’s time for the factory. But ignorance is bliss and, as they say, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Quite. I hope I go the same way.
Fool that I am, I have become attached to cattle. Far from being a feedlot, we finish around 100 store bullocks each year, so with that sort of number, you get to know some individual bullocks reasonably well. And while they are being meal-fed for the finish, you get to know them better. Their individual characters come out. And then it’s all over.
I am very aware that in writing this piece, you may think that I’ve gone all soft
Once I went to a meat factory to see our cattle being killed. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and was never repeated. I saw lifeless heads that I recognised but with the hides pulled off their carcases. And as I’ve observed before, you see comrade cattle going down the line together.
Now, I am very aware that in writing this piece, you may think that I’ve gone all soft and well on the way to being vegetarian. In fact, I may even come across as anti-animal farming.
But nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not being a hypocrite and don’t feel like one. I love meat, particularly beef, but think we must respect and care for our animals to the highest standards if meat eating is to have a future. And I certainly hope it does.
In a recent edition of Irish Country Living, there was an advertisement for butcher apprentices with the well-known and highly-eminent James Whelan Butchers.
CEO Pat Whelan describes one of the skills of a good butcher very eloquently as, and I quote: “Being a compassionate slaughterman – you’ve been given the privilege and the skill to take life from an animal and that has to be done with respect.” I couldn’t agree more.
Now to something completely different and with which I certainly don’t agree. In a recent interview with the Minister for Agriculture in this newspaper, he revealed that the State was claiming the sequestered carbon credits in grant-aided farm forestry.
I say very firmly, they’re my trees on my land and the sequestered carbon is certainly mine
This defies belief. As a co-owner of hardwood forestry, I say very firmly, they’re my trees on my land and the sequestered carbon is certainly mine. The land was planted on my initiative, not the State’s.
If farmers and forestry owners are not rewarded for building carbon levels, then why should we bother?
There’s precedent here as well. Will the State then claim the carbon credits on tillage land that is State-aided with the Straw Incorporation Measure?
The minister is on very sticky ground here. If farmers and forestry owners are not rewarded for building carbon levels, then why should we bother? It’ll effectively sound the death knell for tree planting, at a time when we need it most.
Finally, to finish on a more cheerful note. The gallivanting black whitehead bullock left a gross margin over cost of €720, which had me kicking up my heels as well. I’m over him now and starting afresh – only this season’s friends are costing a lot more.