As January moved into February, we decided it was time to make room for calves that would be arriving this year, along with keeping our feed costs down by getting calves away earlier than normal.

We don’t normally have many calves this time of year to sell, but between one thing and another, we ended up with three autumn calves and one smaller May calf who was weaned early as his mother was being culled.

These were shipped off to the mart in the middle of the month, luckily just before the weather broke and storms arrived to flood all the fields again after the dry start to the year.

While I didn’t feel they were anything special, I was pleasantly surprised to almost hit €2,000 for both of them, considering the rising costs in farming.

And the excitement of the day didn’t stop there as we arrived home to find the calves gone just in time, with our first heifer showing signs of an imminent calf arrival.

Despite having farmed with my father since I was small, I’ve never had to use the calving jack without his aid and tutelage.

However, I always knew there’d be a day (or night) where I’d have to step up and make the decision to use it without his watchful eye.

Valentine's weekend proved to be the ‘D-day’ so to speak, causing great excitement for my partner as he’d never assisted in calving before.


As I went through the process of handling the heifer, roping the legs and attaching the jack, I explained to him why each action was needed, which gave me far more confidence than I’d have felt if I was alone.

Though I’d wielded it countless times with dad at the helm, this was my first time being fully in charge and having a second-in-command of my own.

My father has always been the single greatest influence in my life, a driving force on the farm and my teacher, so there was no small amount of pressure to ensure all went well.

The calf in question arrived safe and sound, but ended up with fluid on his lungs even though he was taken within the normal timeframe.

This in turn meant he couldn’t suckle the heifer and had to be tubed for the first few days, which I had to relearn, as it had been a few years since I’d previously used a stomach tube for feeding.

It wasn’t like riding a bike where the memory just flowed back to me, as the last calf I’d to tube had to be caught in the shed during my Green Cert training, unlike our little fellow under the heat lamp looking very sorry for himself.

Thankfully, our vet is one who likes to train the farmer, so with a couple of lessons I had it off in no time and on day four he was sucking the heifer like he’d never learned otherwise.

When dad leaned over the gate, as he always does, watched the calf suckle and said he was proud of me, I don’t think there was a happier woman in all of Ireland.

However, it certainly threw my partner in at the deep end of suckler farming and now the big question is if he’ll return as I made use of the extra set of hands and also fluked all the cows while he was around to help!