This past week has been a tough week for everyone remembering Ashling Murphy and the awful way that she died, RIP. In school we had a remembrance walk to express solidarity and support for Ashling’s family.

I thought I knew what it was like to miscarry a baby until it happened. I thought I knew what it was like to lose a parent until my mam died. I thought I knew a lot of things until they became my lived experience.

I’m around long enough to know that I have no idea what the people that love Ashling are enduring. All we can do is hope that what we are thinking in our quiet times can in some way support them. It is still a daily topic in our staff room.

The gardaí have done an amazing job. Life goes on and that is the cruellest part of any tragedy for the people impacted.

Focus on calf rearing

Right now, my reality is calf rearing coming down the track and I am focusing on getting ready. I’ve watched the Teagasc Calf Rearing webinar and listened to the Dairy Edge podcast on calf rearing. They are massive resources to have to hand. Teagasc have broken the elements of calf rearing down into small pieces so that you can refresh or learn for the first time what is important. They are all available on the website.

Google “Calf care events – Teagasc”. You can listen to the Dairy Edge anytime. It’s down to every individual farmer to distil the advice and decide what to take on board.

As I was watching the webinar and listening to Emer Kennedy, Teagasc researcher whom I consider brilliant on calf rearing with her knowledge backed up by research; I was agreeing wholeheartedly with the advice but then I have to consider the economics of some of the points.

All the teats on the feeders should be replaced each year. Twelve feeders multiplied by 10 teats is a substantial cost. The calf feeding bottles should also be replaced. The rational for this is new research that the team at Moorepark have been doing on farms where hygiene is of a high standard. It found that even on the cleanest calf rearing regimes bacteria could be found in the teat areas.

I believe that proper washing with hot sudsy water or rinsing and soaking the feeders daily in the correct solution of paracetic acid will remove that bacteria. Last year I replaced leaking teats as I noticed them. It does go against the advice of replacing all teats together and so on. I noticed no ill effects. I always buy a new Speedy Calf Feeder bottle each year. It’s €33! Yet, I often go back to the softer worn teat that is easier to suck for a new born calf. So we all have our little idiosyncrasies.


Good hygiene was stressed across the board. Tim is of the view that I do far too much washing consequently increasing my work load. We have the discussion regularly. I’m steadfast in the view that the cleaner the calf feeding equipment is, the longer I can avoid the onset of a scour infection. A dry, deep straw bed is also imperative.

The rule of thumb advised was that the calves legs should not be visible when they are lying in the nest of straw. My test is to kneel on the bed of straw, your knee should not get wet. Calves get cold on a straw bed quickly.

What’s new this year

One of the things that struck me is the advice around calf scour and the necessary move away from using antibiotics. While I dread scour, it is also important to plan for it. We’ve yet to decide what will replace the product Effydral rehydration therapy and others that have gone off the market. One of the points made in the webinar was to have an anti-inflammatory injection available for calves that get scour. Talk to your vet and have it ready. A calf’s stomach is sore if it has a scour and consequently the calf is reluctant to feed. Giving an anti-inflammatory injection of 1.5ml will ease the calf’s discomfort and speed up recovery.

We are busy preparing for the season ahead. Maintenance never ends and getting ready is a big task. The more organised we are, the better the season will flow.