We are drying off the last of the cows this week and looking forward to a bit of an easier time over the next few weeks, after the very tough conditions on the grazing front right through autumn.

We should get a full month dry before the calves start to appear, which will be a good chance to get organised for the busy spring period.

Hopefully, we will get a dry time between now and calving. The mild weather has grown a lot of grass over the last few months, but without ground conditions improving significantly, we will struggle to get out to make use of it.

Every gap is exceptionally soft, despite multiple entrances, so we might have to spend more time on concrete than usual through the spring.

We grazed off some of the furthest paddocks from the parlour over the last month, so that freshly calved cows won’t have to walk too far for the first few weeks of their lactation.

Like most Irish farms, ours isn’t the perfect shape for efficient grazing, so cows have to walk long distances to some of the paddocks.

The furthest paddocks are over 2km from the parlour, so these really challenge the feet of the herd, especially through wet weather like we have had this autumn.

Foot bathing and hoof paring

Foot bathing helps and regularly lifting the feet keeps things under control, but in the long term we will have to find a permanent solution.

For now, we are picking out a few bunches of cows for hoof paring, as they are dried off and will continue to footbathe the herd through the dry period to keep on top of issues and keep feet in good condition for the upcoming season.


Off farm, we have a big week on the cards, with the regional and presidential elections taking place in IFA and next week also sees the appointment of a new president for the ICMSA.

Denis Drennan also farms in Clara parish and will take up his new role next week. He should make a great president for the ICMSA.

Two excellent candidates put their names forward for the top job in IFA, with Francie Gorman winning it in the end.

There will be a lot of change in farm leadership in a short space of time, and we need these people to hit the ground running after the elections, as we have a vast number of issues facing farmers as we move into 2024.

We have backlogs with the knackeries to sort out, with the cost rendering of fallen stock gone through the roof in recent days. We have a change in the interpretation of VAT reclaims to also get to the bottom of, and major delays in payments for ACRES announced with no notice, to name only a few.

Fresh faces will hopefully bring fresh energy to the top table of these organisations, to take on these issues and the avalanche of fresh issues that seem to appear on an almost daily basis in these recent years.

In fact, with all of these challenges, the biggest issue facing farmers and farm leaders as we move into the darkest months of the year could be mental health.

Increasing workload and regulation with tighter margins mean we all need to be more vigilant for any potential issues people may have.