I’ve become a bit smarter this year. For the last number of years, six or seven weeks out from calving I’ve written in these pages that I can take it easy for another few weeks yet.

As soon as it appeared in print, invariably a cow decided to calve ahead of time. I wasn’t going to fall for that this year so made a conscious effort to avoid the topic.

The results of my efforts were promising, by last Monday I was within 12 days of the first due date. I was away all day and when I got home, I went to put in silage and turn on an extra light for the calving cameras.

I was convinced I heard new calf noises as I walked into the shed but on reaching the heifers, they all looked settled. There wasn’t a budge until I pushed a bit of fresh silage out for them.

A few started to move for the extra grub as I turned on the light in the feeding area. They’d be clearer to see on the calving camera then at least.

That’s when I heard the lowing sound again. As the heifers moved, I spotted the small whitehead tucked in near the straw at the back. I went in home to put on the work clothes and came out to find the calf sucking and the audience looking on. I got the calf pens bedded and brought them out there for a bit of peace and quiet away from the curious crowd.

The smallest heifer in the place got calving 2024 under way with a heifer calf.

The main straw shed evolves into a calving area every spring and has been home to most of the in-calf heifers since the end of January.

A lean-to off it is home to the old dairy stall section, which serves as the calf pens now and between them there’s a high wall with a few vents that divides them.

On the stall side, there’s a walkway that runs from the length of the house.

It was used to fill up the head feed of the stall with hay when previous generations wintered dairy cows there and it serves a similar feeding function now.

On the odd occasion, there have been a few cows that have got extra vocal too but, luckily, they are few and far between

It’s 12 paces from the dairy door to that opening and over those dozen steps, I challenge my senses every spring. Now, it only works if you haven’t seen the calving camera in a while but the sounds and smells are different when there’s a new calf in the shed.

Different tones

Once I open the door I’m listening for the different tones of lowing, the ‘hmmms’ and ‘mmms’, the sound of a cow vigorously licking her calf and humming at the same time. The sounds are different again if it’s all heifers in the shed and a new calf has arrived.

Calving got under way last week on Tommy Moyles' farm at Ardfield, Clonakilty, Co Cork.

You can hear multiple nostrils sniffing as they work out what has gone on. They appear to have extended their necks as they try to get close, but not too close, to the new arrival.

On the odd occasion, there have been a few cows that have got extra vocal too but, luckily, they are few and far between.

It will be fairly full on in the maternity ward for the next six weeks so hopefully we get some respite from the rain.

The evenings are stretching out so we hope to get stock out in some form over the next week or so.