You may not be able to reverse the ageing process but growing older is not always a hindrance
I looked in the mirror last night and thought, 'damn it'. Not a black hair to be seen and yet it seems only yesterday that the first grey intruder sneaked in. I get some consolation from a perusal of the age profile of farmers around the globe where I see that I am now a member of a big group. And maybe if I think about it long enough there are other little perks that come with maturity.
Across the EU, 52pc of the landholders are over 55 years of age. Indeed, almost 30pc are over 65. Eurostat figures show that Irish landholders tend to be younger than the EU average, with only 40pc of them over 55 years. In the UK, more than 50pc of landholders are over 55, with the average age for the UK farmer at 58 and rising.
At the other end of the age spectrum, only 8pc of EU landholders are under 35. Ireland fares a little better scoring 13pc, although Macra claims that the number of farmers under the age of 35 has dropped to as little as 7pc. Legislators and planners have to take these realities into account when dreaming up targets for our farmers.
Farming can be physically demanding but the auld lads are in no rush to throw in their shovels or vacate the tractor seats. Why should they if they believe that they can still do the job?
Then again, it is the attitude of a person that can matter more than anno domino.
Some 20-year-olds can be bone lazy. Equally, a hardy 70-year-old can still cover a lot of ground. Once I recall two neighbouring farms, both of which were manned by fathers of almost 80 and sons in their 40s. When one of the 80-year-olds dropped dead, the other remarked that he was sorry for the son as old Paddy "still had a lot of work left in him".
The rashness of youth versus the wisdom of maturity can also come into play. Once I observed a father and two sons each with a tractor and trailer drawing in silage from one of those huge, self-propelled harvesters. The senior man took his time negotiating hazards with care. The sons had the accelerator foot to the floor and were hopping off the fields and lanes taking risky short cuts. At the end of the day the father had shifted the most silage. Unlike the sons, he had to take no down-time for breakages and repairs.
We have all heard the story of the old bull and the young bull when they suddenly came across a bunch of heifers. The young bull gets excited and says: "Let's run over and bull a few of these heifers." The older one replies: "No, we'll take our time and bull all of them."