I hope that you are having a suitably solemn Veganuary, as insisted upon by those who promote the initiative.

In my own situation, I have taken to reporting much of the vegan propaganda that pollutes my social media feed as ‘false information’. However, I have also seen posts that would more appropriately be reported as ‘bulling or harassment’.

Hopefully, my actions will help teach Instagram’s algorithm that such posts are unlikely to cause me to have a Damascus type conversion.

At the same time, do not enter the comment section of such posts under the illusion that you can persuade the fava bean faithful with some facts. To paraphrase a quote from media personality Rebekah Vardy – arguing with a vegan is like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong, but it’s still going to poo in your hair.


I recently purchased a Farmflix subscription for my father’s birthday (I love a present where the VAT can be reclaimed).

The volume and quality of NI farms featured is astonishing. With such examples, it is easy to see how NI, with a population of just 1.8m, produces enough livestock products to feed 10m. However, with cost of production increases over the last two years, many NI farms will have reassessed their future plans.

Therefore, it was of little surprise to read in the Irish Farmers Journal over Christmas that its survey at the Winter Fair indicated fewer dairy farmers are thinking of expanding their enterprises than at any point in over 15 years.


One of the major factors identified was the difficulty in obtaining labour.

As I have explained in a previous article, I have no intention to expand cow numbers and we would rather consolidate and get more efficient.

Any expansion in cow numbers would require extra full-time labour. However, I much prefer our current arrangement. where extra labour and skills are brought in as required. For example, almost all of our welding and fabricating is done by a local engineer.

Thirty years ago. my grandfather and father had enough spare time during the winter to take on projects such as producing a trailer, a bale sledge or grubber, but with many more cows to milk, that is no longer possible.

We also regularly use a professional hoof trimmer and now very rarely lift a cow’s hoof ourselves, while most building maintenance is done by a local father and son team.

This approach means we don’t have to take on full-time labour, and jobs that are done by outside help are completed to a much higher standard than I could hope to achieve.


I realise that for bigger farms, the current labour crisis is something that must be resolved, so young people must see agriculture as a rewarding and progressive career.

In the past, many took up the profession as they felt it was expected of them or that they had no other option. This is not the case in the modern era, and those that are farming now are doing so because they love the job.

We might currently face a period of consolidation within NI agriculture, but I strongly believe these young farmers will push on to further increase sustainable output and economic generation.

Capital investment

In the short-term, with a dramatic drop in milk price forecast, it is important that dairy farmers are able to identify the most appropriate use of capital investment.

A neighbouring farmer was recently telling my father that during the cold snap at the beginning of December, he was taking his new fully laden calf milk canteen down a steep hill when he lost control on the ice.

While holding on with white knuckles, sliding behind at an alarming rate as he tried to regain control, he said he had a decision to make – would it be more expensive to replace the canteen or a hip?

He consequently found out that a hip replacement would cost £14,000 compared to £7,000 for the canteen. Knowing this at the time might have meant less crying over the spilt milk.

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