Cattle going out to grass in the springtime often have to deal with very challenging weather conditions. But I can't remember ever seeing my cattle looking so happy and content as they relaxed in the beautiful sunshine which greeted them this year.
The ongoing lockdown has really changed the pace of everything on the farm. We no longer need to rush so much as we can literally go nowhere and we have all the time in the world to get there
That said, I am quite busy tackling jobs which have been piling up for ages. In a strange way it is a great opportunity to get these jobs sorted
Old slats which were replaced two or three years ago are now all neatly stacked for removal. My old electric fencing system has also been upgraded Luckily my 35-year-old 'Power 260' energiser which I had reconditioned last year still packs a punch which would put most new fencers to shame
The cattle are happy and appear to be doing well although I have noticed a brown-coloured hue developing in the coats of a small number of stock.
When I checked their cards, they turned out to be a group of five Friesians I bought late last September. If I were to make a guess, I would say they are more likely a mixture of Friesian and Jersey with perhaps a dash of Angus.
While not very tall, they have long deep bodies, but unfortunately narrow hind quarters. They did surprisingly well over the winter and continue to thrive since going out to grass. It will be interesting to see how they get on when they get to the factory, and hopefully that lesson won't end up costing me too much
As far as grass is concerned everything looks good at the moment. Even before the late arrival of the April showers, grass supply was fine with the nice weather conditions allowing me to graze out the paddocks well. This has resulted in grass on my second round of grazing being nice and fresh.
Something I have noticed a lot recently is the amount of media coverage and publicity which women who own and run farms are receiving. This is very welcome and long overdue as women have made a huge contribution to Irish farming down the decades.
The amount of work and support which farming wives have contributed has been phenomenal. In fact, we are all probably aware of situations where farms which would have failed years ago were kept afloat because of a wife's input and hard work.
In more recent years, the annual Teagasc reports show that in very many cases it's a farming wife's off-farm income which keeps food on the table and often pays many of the farm bills.
I was reminded of this recently while listening to an excellent farming programme on our local community radio station. The presenter was interviewing a local Teagasc adviser who just happened to be a woman. They had a really excellent discussion covering a large number of farming issues, many of a highly technical nature.
However, what made me really sit up and listen, was when the Teagasc advisor warned listeners that for the duration of the current virus outbreak, farmers should be aware of the potential financial implications of the lockdown on their farming businesses.
She explained that with so many people losing their jobs, many farm households could now find themselves without the extra income generated by wives working off-farm.
Some farmers will now have to factor the cost of food and other household costs into their annual financial plans.
To me this was just another painful reminder that, in spite of receiving billions in EU support, many Irish farms - particularly in the beef sector - are no longer capable of generating enough income to feed and clothe families and must rely on off-farm income to keep going.
Current policies have failed miserably to solve what has now become a never-ending crisis in the cattle sector.
I believe that the time has come for those responsible to 'think outside the box'. They should act proactively and give Ireland's independent farm consultants a crack at addressing the highly unfortunate situation on our cattle farms.
The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) should be asked to appoint a small number of their more experienced members to come with a new policy document on the future of cattle farming in Ireland. This group, I believe, would be prepared to make hard decisions and be singularly focused on the business of creating a decent living from cattle farming.
This body of independent advisers should be properly resourced and have access to the most up-to-date research data available, including data generated from our own internationally renowned Teagasc research facilities.
Most importantly, they should be totally free from all forms of political interference
The alternative for cattle farmers is to continue down the path we are currently on and it's pretty obvious where that is taking us!
John Heney farms in Kilfeackle, Co Tipperary; firstname.lastname@example.org