Dairy-beef calves arrived thick and fast as soon as we got back from the brother’s wedding in Spain. The wedding itself went grand, despite the weather being more Irish than Spanish – there was nothing only wind and rain for the few days.
The in-laws were happy with the rain though, since my brother has made the very sensible decision to marry into a family of commercial grape and fruit growers. He will never see a thirsty or hungry day.
As well as having the weather in common, the Irish and Spanish farmers at the wedding also had similar complaints when we fell into sharing war stories.
Tight margins, endless red-tape and the massive power of processors and retailers are common issues for primary producers around the Valencia region.
But to go back to the calves. I bought 20 in New Ross and another 10 in Dungarvan across two days of standing around the ring. It was not a pleasant experience.
Some professional buyers ringside were unhappy with a stranger entering what they see as their domain. Neither were they shy about showing their irritation. I had manners put on me a few times when calves I started bidding on were pushed up €20 to €30 higher than similar calves where only the professionals themselves were bidding. Another time, one gentleman leaned in close and offered to buy the calves for me. He claimed he could get them for less money than I would pay for them.
I ignored the blackguarding as best I could, and soon enough filled my quota with mostly Angus, Hereford, and Limousin bulls and heifers.
To spread the risk, and for a bit of variety, I also bought a few Belgian Blues, Simmentals and a Speckle Park heifer. Purchase prices ranged from €60 to €205.
They were all in the shed by 3pm both days and both themselves and myself are now into something of a routine. I feed them at 7.30am and 5.30pm.
This regular schedule is for me as much as for them. It bookends the working day (most of the time) and gives me a three-month insight into what milking cows might be like, in terms of being tied to the shed twice a day, seven days a week.
Before I start complaining too much, I should say I am very happy overall with the calves themselves
Running a one-man operation means taking time off during these three months would be more hassle than it is worth.
Before I start complaining too much, I should say I am very happy overall with the calves themselves, and the simple feeding system I have in place. This is my third year whisking milk powder and mistakes made previously have focused my mind on the few small things that really matter for young calves.
I offer no insights beyond the advice that is already published on a regular basis, but it is only when you see it yourself that the issues of high-quality feed, hygiene and a consistent routine become the obvious have-to-haves.
It will be October or November 2023 before I see how much money these dairy-beef animals leave. Only then will I know if the €20 to €30 “stranger premium” I paid because of some lads acting the scut has much of an impact on the bottom line.