You could be forgiven for thinking we’ve gone into the calf rearing business if you stepped foot into our shed these days as there’s not a pen without a calf in it and more on the way.

With the weather as miserable as it could be for March, there’s no other choice but to keep them in, which makes for a pretty full shed at the moment.

Unfortunately, this also includes an orphaned calf after we lost a cow with a uterine prolapse shortly after giving birth. While it was a perfectly normal calving and the calf was born quickly without any help, I left her alone for 20 minutes after I got him up and nursing.

Within that time she managed to push out her calf bed which is not a sight anyone wants to find at 10 o’clock on a wet night.

Despite the vet arriving as quickly as possible, she sadly lost the fight to live and passed away within an hour of the vet and I replacing it.

It’s always heartbreaking to lose an animal, especially when you’ve tried so hard to save them. But as the old adage goes; where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock, and it’s impossible to save every animal on a farm.

Though there’s never time for kicking yourself over the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ after such an event, there’s stock to be fed and minded on a daily basis and all we can do is try our hardest to minimise losses. At least it’s some consolation that we tried our best to save her, instead of finding her dead the following morning.


This left us with a conundrum, did we attempt to adopt the calf onto another or cut our losses and bottle feed him from the start. An attempt was made to foster him onto a first calver, and initially the signs were looking favourable.

However after two days of fighting with the heifer, we had to admit defeat because if it continued, either the calf or myself would have ended up flying through the air like a peculiar satellite. Turns out she not only kicked like a donkey, she was as obstinate as one too.

Fortunately for the calf, the capable hands of my mother were ready to step in once it was decided that he would be bottle-fed. Though after being on a cow for a couple of days, it was quite tedious retraining him into using a false teat.

There’s nothing more frustrating than a calf who’ll attempt sucking clothes, hands, gates, or indeed everything it could get its mouth around, but wave a teat in front of their mouth and it would conveniently forget how to drink.


While I was pleased to see the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) now has a higher payment for farmers, I was slightly disgruntled by the compulsory joining of the Bord Bia quality assurance scheme.

Although I can understand the good intention behind making suckler farmers join, it does mean more tiresome paperwork for the farmer, along with the stress of an inspection.

As we rarely slaughter stock, there was never any justification for us to join, and though we keep all our records as faultless as possible, there will now be an added factor of stress to keep everything in order.