I suppose you could argue that the positive side of coping with the past four months of wet weather is how it showcases the adaptability and resilience of farmers.

A cynic, similarly, might point out that we don’t really have much choice, do we? Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it and be prepared to alter the game-plan on an almost daily basis.

Without trying to play the old victim card here, it feels as if the east coast got the lion’s share of heavy downpours, but maybe I’m becoming paranoid in my old age.

Certainly, the recent 80mm of rain that fell between 26 and 28 October appeared to hit a narrow coastal band, while rumours abounded of dry roads 10 miles away, and winter cereals being planted in those same areas.

Since then, the deluge has continued and by Wednesday, I have totalled 164mm of rain in the last week. Everyone has probably received their fair share by now.


The heifer-rearing was far from immune to weather worries, and two main issues were highlighted this year.

Among the young calves, lungworm control had to be robust and repetitive, while the big story surrounding the in-calf heifers was the need for a complete change in grassland management.

Local vets reported heavy lungworm infestations after prolonged wet and mild conditions, with some unsuspecting stock-keepers losing young cattle.

Having been through the mill with this problem in previous years, I was acutely aware of how devastating lungworm can be (particularly immediately after anthelmintic treatment) and they regularly received pour-on along their backs.

They have been dosed four times (so far) at roughly five-week intervals. If a slight cough was detected among the group, this 35-day period was trimmed slightly, and if no coughing was heard then the gap was stretched out to nearer 42 days. All cattle have been vaccinated in mid-October for IBR.

Older heifers

The older heifers were AI’d on 10 May, and of course the main anxiety until the pregnancy diagnosis in late July is conception rate within the group.

But after a healthy result on that front, the overwhelming topic centred on grassland management.

The irony of this year’s weather is that I had to switch over to strip-grazing to ensure a steady supply of fresh grass, but for opposite reasons.

Firstly, we had near-drought conditions and the fencer was needed to eke out dwindling grass covers. After the rains came (you gotta be careful what you wish for), the electric wire was rolled out again, but for very different conditions.

During the very worst spells of heavy rain, the heifers were housed for one or two days because poaching along the fence line was too severe.

Favourite jobs

Having to deal with inclement weather can have a silver lining. If I am given freedom to whinge and complain about awful field conditions, then equally I should point out that the daily shifting of the electric fence is one of my favourite jobs within farming.

I realise that dairy farmers who have been moving fences twice a day all their lives may regard it as a mundane part of their working day, yet I consider it a wholly underestimated part of agricultural life.

I have always found the shifting of any class of livestock into fresh pasture to be almost indescribably satisfying, but to do it every morning just as the sun is rising, simply elevates it to another level.

Then to stand at the top of the hill, watching the cattle gorge themselves on luscious grass as the cars speed along the road, carrying people to their desk jobs in the city, reminds me that I shouldn’t take too much of my daily workload for granted. For all the stresses, it remains a unique way of life.

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