Cattle farmers need to be more militant about price pressures

At a Teagasc BETTER sheep farm walk on the Doyle farm in Ballinacoola, Ballindaggin, Co Wexford, a large crowed learned about optimising grass utilisation for early and mid-season lambing flocks. Photo Roger Jones.
At a Teagasc BETTER sheep farm walk on the Doyle farm in Ballinacoola, Ballindaggin, Co Wexford, a large crowed learned about optimising grass utilisation for early and mid-season lambing flocks. Photo Roger Jones.

John Heney

July turned out to be a particularly busy month for me this year. First off it was a case of out with the old and in with the new as far as my cattle slats were concerned.

Having being built in the early 1970s, my shed with its low eves and narrow feeding passageway posed a major challenge to anyone trying to replace the slats. However thanks to the amazing problem solving ability and hard work of the crew involved, everything went smoothly with the minimum amount of disruption to both the yard and shed.

Just as soon as we had finished laying the new slats my annual herd test fell due, so the pressure was on to replace the barriers and side shutters next to the yard in order to get all the cattle in together. As luck would have it this challenge also had a happy outcome with the herd passing the test, which of course is a great relief to any farmer.

Next up was second-cut silage and in spite of the changeable weather luck was again on my side with the grass going in nice and dry, which resulted in little or no seepage from the pit. It turned out to be a good heavy crop, so hopefully it will be sufficient to compensate for the disappointing first cut.

I also had good news about my little 10 year old C4 van, which has nearly 200,000 miles on the clock - it also passed its DOE test with flying colours.

While other sectors in farming are benefiting from emergency EU funding to ameliorate their current difficulties, it appears that once again cattle farmers are simply being thrown to the wolves.

Is it that cattle farmers are just too meek and so find themselves being totally ignored? Perhaps the time has come to take a leaf from another sector's book by becoming quite vociferous and defiant when incomes are threatened. Continually playing the best boy in the class appears to have achieved little more than hasten the cattle sector's extinction.

All we need now is another pretentious farming guru telling us how to get rich fattening cattle. It's about time that these types were told once and for all what to do with their 'increased output!' and 'gross margins'. They should be politely encouraged to join the real world where actual farm income (net profit) is the only figure that counts.

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We've all heard the old saying about the glass being half full or half empty, but people's opinions seem to be divided about the weather this summer.

For some the sporadic spells of beautiful fine weather were seen as a half full grass while the numerous wet spells convinced the rest that the glass is half empty.

However, as a farmer who relies solely on grass for feed, the proverbial glass has been nicely full all summer. With both heat and moisture in good supply, overall growing conditions have been quite good. It did slow down a bit in mid July but at the moment it appears to be taking off again.

With all the recent market volatility it is difficult to know whether it would be better to move cattle or wait a while in the hope of things settling down. My best cattle appear to be quite fleshy so I'll probably try to get a load away in the next week or two and then at least I'll know where I stand.

On a happier note I paid a very enjoyable visit to the recent RDS horse show in Ballsbridge. What a great event it was and what a spectacle with its myriad of classes for what must have been thousands of entries. It was a real case of rural Ireland meets the leafy suburbs with 'Foxrock fillies' mingling freely with farmers from as far away as Farranfore and beyond.

Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but I also found it quite uplifting to see a very prominent Kildare cattle farmer chatting happily with 'The Princess Royal' as they watched the 'Nations Cup' on Friday. I wonder if he used the opportunity to discuss the effect that Brexit was having on the cattle trade over here - probably not!

It really was an amazing display of beautifully presented horses, who were such a credit to their owners, participating in the many events which were run with amazing military precision. Full marks must go to all the hardworking RDS staff involved.

A big well done must also go to the legions of judges and stewards; the gentlemen resplendent in their bowlers and the ladies in their colourfully bedecked straw hats, who performed their highly important duties with such aptitude and aplomb.

John Heney farms in Kilfeacle, Co Tipperary

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