Like many others, I don’t think this farm will be sorry to see the end of 2023 coming. Between torrid weather and a couple of livestock deaths, it’s one of those years we’re happy to put behind us, and face the new one with a positive attitude.

The main highlight was the excellent cattle trade, which seemed to hold all throughout the summer and autumn; quite unusual for such a wet year.

Between bull and heifer weanlings, ours averaged €1,140 for 355kg at roughly eight months of age. This was the best price per kg we’ve achieved in recent years.

It’s been a few years since we scanned cattle, but as we had one questionable heifer who was running with an older weanling bull, we also selected a few of our better quality cows to get checked over in the hopes of some more replacement stock we could keep next year.

As the infamous Meat Loaf sang, two out of three ain’t bad, with two of these carrying heifer calves. However, we shall have the ugly issue of stars rearing their heads again.

While both cows carrying the possible replacements have been genotyped as four and five stars of over €105 for the last five or six years, they have since dropped in the recent changes that were implemented.

This means that although these cows do qualify for the SCEP scheme while remaining on this farm, their calves will be graded according to the new system and will not be accepted.

It appears my crystal ball was misplaced four or five months ago when I was choosing bulls, which would have brought qualifying heifers for the years to come.

While we don’t buy in animals too often, it’s looking like I’ll be on the search for a few heifers or cows next spring to bolster our numbers which have dropped in recent years, due to hard culling with problematic cows.

It’s not ideal, but it does mean I can be selective with stock and possibly bring in some new pedigree genes to join our small herd.

The quad has become one of the more irreplaceable modes of transport on this farm, particularly for my father as it allows him a degree of independence to move freely over our fragmented and hilly fields.

While we have no issue with wearing a helmet, there are a confusing number of choices out there.

Personally, I’d be happy with any one which matches the certification needed, but there are factors involved in choosing a helmet for my father. With four electrodes implanted in his brain and a slight neck restriction, it narrows his options considerably.

Thankfully as the cattle are all housed, the quad is parked up for most of the winter, giving us a longer window of opportunity to source one that suits the implanted medical paraphernalia.

On Sunday 10 December, we finally got around to hosting the delayed tractor run, which my father had set up to raise money for the DBS services in Beaumont Hospital.

Between the GoFundMe page and donations on the day, over €5,000 was raised for the fund.

We were very lucky with the morning and afternoon remaining dry, though the day certainly won’t be forgotten as just after the tractors set off, a great rattle of thunder was heard over the surrounding area as the unexpected tornado touched down in Leitrim Village 20km away.

Luckily, there were no serious injuries, but it just goes to show that plans could change in an instant.

As we come to the end of another roller coaster year of farming, the McCabe family would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, along with a happy and healthy 2024.