There has been no end to this poor weather and it seems like it has been raining for nearly ten months.

We are all hoping that the next few weeks will see an improvement, but no matter who you are talking to (in farming circles) the weather is the first thing on everyone’s mind.

I am actually very pragmatic about the whole thing. I have seen it all before. It may be worse than previous years, but our memories can be very short and after a couple of dry weeks everything will be forgotten.

The dry weather will come and in a very short space of time there will probably be some farmers complaining about the lack of rain, the ground getting too hard and no grass growing.

Here in the west, we do not ever need to look for rain. Having said that we are well used to wet conditions and we do find ways and means of dealing with it.

The most important strategy is to make enough silage for at least a seven-month winter and if it happens to be less, then we carry the fodder over till the next year. I have enough silage for at least another month, which should hopefully get us through.

Even with all the wet weather, grass has been growing well and everywhere is very green.

I got a fair bit of slurry out a couple of months ago and some bits and pieces of fertiliser spread, all of which has helped grass growth.

The problem now is that we need to be getting more livestock out and grazing started.

Pushed out

Ewes and lambs have had to be pushed outside as the houses were filling up, with scours and pneumonia becoming an issue. Out in the field they are not pleasant looking, and lots have had to come in again.

Then I have my spring calving cows. I’ve only one left to calve now, but the place is coming down with small groups of cows and calves. Normally, I would have had the most of them out by now. I need to get them to grass and settled ahead of breeding.

With cows and calves inside, it creates a lot of extra work and requires a lot of straw.

As a result, I took the bull by the horns on 1 April and started to let out some cows and calves. Any dry day I would push more out and then on wet days I would have to bring some back in.

Over the last few weeks, they have been in and out like yo-yos. Actually, on some days they looked very well and were content. I have kept them in small batches and moved them regularly, in an attempt to stop them getting unsettled and doing too much damage to the land. They have poached the ground in some places, but hopefully it can be repaired later in the year.

It is a difficult balancing act. Grass needs to be grazed and cattle need to get out, but that needs to be set against the negative impact on swards.


A few months ago I sat in on a few meetings relating to the new Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for grass-fed Irish beef, where we in NI joined with our counterparts in the South to get approval from the EU.

I was always very sceptical about this designation, but it has been granted.

This PGI status is for cattle that have spent a minimum of 220 days at grass per year, although a tolerance of 40 days is allowed under ‘mitigating circumstances’. But if this year is anything to go by then I do not think that there will be many eligible animals in the whole island of Ireland that meet the 220 day target.

Even on a really good year it is exceedingly difficult to have cattle at grass for 220 days. However, that is what has been agreed and there is no going back now.