I hope everyone had a happy and enjoyable Christmas and got a chance to recharge the batteries over the holidays and get re-energised for the spring season.

We could do with a bit more average and boring weather in the new year, rather than the extremes that have become more common recently, but we will have to be ready to deal with whatever comes at us.

Calving is just around the corner here again and although the workload increases with the influx of calves, it’s still the best time of year on the farm, with new life appearing in the calf pens and cows calving in again with full udders of milk.

We have a nice batch of heifers to calve in, but also a large batch, which will mean a bit of extra time spent in the parlour through February and March.


We have a good team of staff lined up for the spring though, which should make life a bit easier on everyone.

As long as we don’t run into too many health problems with calves and cows, we should be okay and enough people around the yard should help to keep everything clean and minimise problems.

We were a bit run off our feet at times last spring, after one of the lads had to retire at short notice. Finding and training someone at a busy time is never easy, but we should be in a much better place this year.

Everyone on the team has a bit more experience and understanding of the system, so hopefully they all stay around for the foreseeable future.

With the herd fully dry for a month at this time of the year, we have plenty of time to get vaccinations, clipping tails and dosing up to date before calving to prevent health issues from arriving or getting established in the young calves and freshly calved cows.

We also have our Cowmanager heat detection tags to organise for the coming season. We will try to get the heifers tagged over the next few weeks and replace any old cow tags with problems.

The tags also monitor health and rumination, so we will get them in before calving to help keep on top of any health issues at the start of lactation.

The National Genotyping Programme tags were also done and samples sent off over the last few months. The speed of the return of genotypes for these samples has been very disappointing though, with various reasons given as to why the results are being held up.

Hopefully, they all go up on the system before the calving season to help with decisions around which heifer calves to retain as replacements, etc.

It is difficult to have confidence in the system to turn around 500,000 calf samples in a matter of days, if the same number of cow samples take a few months.

Signing off

Finally, as the year draws to a close, so does my time contributing to this page in the Irish Farmers Journal.

I have a new position to take up in the new year as chair of the IFA farm business committee, which will involve more work on finding solutions to issues, rather than commenting on them, so time must be prioritised.

Thanks to everyone on the Irish Farmers Journal news team through my time for their support and, most of all, for their patience! Thanks also to all the readers for their feedback and messages of support over the years.

Luck granted, whoever takes over enjoys it as much as I did, and gets the same support.

Finally, a special word of thanks to Pat O’Keeffe, who first approached me about doing an article in the Irish Farmers Journal many moons ago – and who I suppose often regretted it after he moved over to the Glanbia/Tirlán team since.

Hopefully, the next person in the role doesn’t need to give him as many headaches as I had to over the last few years.