January got off to a storming start with a second calf also arriving at the beginning of this month, a stonker of a Belgian Blue bull.

Thankfully the cow is a great calver, and it only took the time to make a cup of tea before she had the job done.

The damp, cold weather was a bit much for him and I ended up digging out the Animal Health Ireland (AHI) recipe for electrolyte solution to tube into him as he managed to pick up a nasty scour from somewhere, despite having a deep bed of straw.

Neither of our calving pens have water, a mistake on our behalf when building them. With new calves in mind as well, we had to plan for water.

After a small bit of thinking on what was best, a new pipe and tap were brought through the wall so we can fill tubs for the pens easily. But our first cow to calve in December wasn’t going to make life easy for us regardless.

After enduring dry mastitis during summer, it flared up again, this time infecting a second section of her udder with the first. A prompt call to the vet meant we could treat her in time to save the newly inflamed quarter.

Shortly after, she popped out a lovely golden bull with no hassle, and he was up and sucking within an hour.

Maternal side

Our replacement heifers are totally enamoured with these new calves and doubtless they’d steal them both if they were let. It’s great to see their maternal side coming out so early as hopefully it’ll mean less issues when they decide to have their own calves in a couple of months.

Looking at our calving book for next year, perhaps it’s best we have a much smaller herd of cattle than usual at this time of year, with more calves than usual arriving in March, and if we have a late spring we’ll have a full shed of stock.

While we hadn’t planned on reducing numbers, when the scheme for cutting suckler numbers was proposed, we certainly did mull over the benefits of less stock and work, especially over winter.

However our grá for quality suckler stock runs deep, and our hearts eventually won out over our heads.

It’s particularly interesting that a dairy exit scheme is now being mentioned, as over the last decade or so it’s all been about increasing the national dairy herd and exports from that sector.

While I’m a huge fan of Irish dairy products, especially the cheese side of things, we shouldn’t allow the traditional suckler farmer to be the scapegoat for emissions issues.

With new technology, surely it’s possible to lower our emissions without having to resort to forcing farmers to make tough decisions, mostly in poorer land areas with long winters and lower stocking rates.

Finally in more lighthearted news, I think we’ve definitely found the most agricultural raffle in Ireland, hosted by Save Leitrim. With prizes of lambs, a calving camera and a scythe, it caused a bit of furore on social media when I posted a picture of the prizes.

The raffle is being held in Drumshanbo mart on 20 January and there’s still time to get tickets if anyone is interested at: www.klubfunder.com/Clubs/SAVE_LEITRIM .

Knowing my luck, I’ll end up with the lambs, at least until they escape.