I would imagine there aren’t that many farmers who, when looking back at 2023, are hoping the next 12 months brings more of the same.

The incessant rain that fell for prolonged periods and at inopportune times really did go well beyond a joke - surely 2024 will deliver something more uplifting?

The negatives from 2023 are far too easy to list. You can take your pick (for this farm) from delayed cereal planting in the spring, then overly dry conditions which turned into consistent wet weather for the rest of the year.

The resultant headaches from difficult grassland management, snatched silage making circumstances, poor field conditions, and a catchy, unprofitable harvest were demoralising to say the least. To be followed by reduced autumn grazing days just felt like salt being rubbed into already raw wounds.

And yet if I concentrate hard perhaps there are a few more uplifting moments also?


I suppose I have to admit that silage making was, by and large, an absolute pleasure. More by accident than design, nearly all my conserved grass is made as one cut, and this was duly completed before the weather broke.

Admittedly there was a three-acre field destined for cutting again and that plan had to be abandoned, but one small field is not much of a game-changer. Wet weather may result in difficult underfoot conditions, but the other side of that coin is that at least fresh grass is in abundant supply.

As far as grazing cattle and lambs are concerned, a prolonged drought causes me bigger headaches than oceans of wet grass (let’s, for the moment, forget about the resultant increase in gut parasites, lungworm, and coccidiosis when it’s wet – that’s just collateral damage).


On a slightly different note, it has been the first year of my deliberately reduced workload.

The cessation of the pullet rearing has certainly freed up a lot of time, and I have been able to head off into the wilds of the Mourne Mountains on a regular basis without feeling like a negligent farmer.

For me, it seems to have been an important and correct decision, and having time to relax or just to work without time constraints has been an eye opener.

Mind you, when you have spent half a lifetime rushing from one job to the next and constantly putting out fires, there is an adjustment period that takes time to become comfortable with.

I would advise anyone pursuing the same route about the importance of having a planned strategy for the week.

There have been times, in the past year, when no job needed being urgently completed, and I found myself dilly dallying and not fully applying myself to any one task. It’s hard to beat a bit of structure in your day.

As for 2024, a near certainty is that all of us are hoping for vastly improved weather conditions. A lot less rain, heaps more sunshine, and more seasonal spells of typical weather would be a nice start.

And perhaps we will be given some clarity on the shape of future farm support, and the accompanying carbon malarkey that we are all trying to get our heads around.


I can’t decide if there is general confusion on this subject, or it’s just me getting older and refusing to embrace any form of change. I think I’m ready to go galloping down the environmental path, skipping with delight through meadows of wildflowers while trying not to trample too many creepy crawlies under my sandals.

However, I’m not quite as tuned into the whole carbon story – there’s far too much explaining still needed before someone like me begins to comprehend any of it.

Read more

Insight into the battle with itchy sheep

The older I get, the less I know about sheep