Slurry: The slurry season opens up again next week in Zones A and B. Zone A opens on Wednesday 13 January, Zone B opens on Saturday 16 January, while Zone C, which includes counties Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan, doesn’t open up until Monday 1 February. Under cross compliance rules, if land is waterlogged or heavy rain is forecast, slurry can’t be spread. Aim slurry for silage fields and fields that are low in P and K – don’t keep spreading it on the field closest to the yard. Mix tanks well and don’t be tempted to just take the water.

Aim to agitate tanks on a windy day and try to make sure sheds have no cattle in them when agitating. Keep safety to the fore when working with slurry. Never enter a shed while agitating and make sure all tanks are closed once the job is complete.

Cold weather management: With very cold temperatures this week and more heavy frost forecast for the weekend, it’s important to be prepared for no water in yards. It’s critical that animals being fed ad-lib meal have access to sufficient water supplies. A good idea is to fill a few barrels or IBC tanks full of water in advance of frost, so you can use them if the yard freezes up. Make sure all the farm vehicles have antifreeze in them and take care for any slips or falls around yard areas on frosty mornings.

Those feeding forage crops need to be very careful during the cold snap. Frost causes higher nitrate levels in the plant and this can lead to poisoning if animals are allowed to graze frozen crops. The best way to avoid this is to move the fence when frost has cleared at midday or afternoon. If the frost lingers all day, you will have no option but to remove access to crop and feed hay or silage for a few days until frost lifts.

COVID-19 plan: With COVID-19 cases spiralling again, it looks like the current lockdown is here to stay, at least for a while. The farming community is no different and we all have a role to play in the fight against the virus. Farming is deemed an essential service, but this doesn’t mean not sticking to the rules. It’s especially important when out and about at marts or merchant stores that social distance is maintained. By maintaining social distance, practicing good hand hygiene and wearing masks, you will help to save people in your community and your family.

At home, have a plan in place as to who will do the jobs if you get the virus. Write out a plan of yard jobs, including what’s getting meal etc. Make sure there is lots of detail in it. For example, writing out just “a bucket of meal to heifers” could cause confusion if there are three different types of meal and four sheds with heifers.

Talk to somebody other than a family member about providing backup, as the chances are if someone in the house has COVID-19, everyone will get it. Staying at home for the next few weeks is a small price to pay to win the fight against COVID-19.