John Heney: We need a serious debate on the future of Irish beef farming
For a number of years with the arrival of winter, a large brown thrush takes possession of a berry-laden Cotoneaster shrub which grows outside our kitchen window.
As I eat my breakfast each morning I watch as he zealously guards his bountiful winter hoard ready to rebuff any attempt by numerous blackbirds to share in it.
The thrush's arrival also indicates that Christmas is not far away, so with the year quickly drawing to a close perhaps it's a good time to have a look back at 2018.
It is unlikely that any of us will forget the nightmare which was 2018. However, even as the legacy of the dreadful weather continues to manifest itself in the form of less-than-abundant supplies of silage, the recent extremely mild autumn has gone a long way to alleviated some of the damage already done.
To me the most unusual thing about the autumn grass was its amazing feed value. Cattle really did thrive very well on it. We have often heard it said the late autumn grass was of little use and that it just "ran through the cattle"; this year however we saw cattle continue to thrive and put on weight - something which was never so badly needed and in my own case it certainly was a great help.
I finished selling the last of my cattle some weeks ago so I'd like to take the opportunity to explain how things worked out in the end.
The trend set by my first load of beef sold in August more or less continued; overall fat scores were only slightly down which I was very pleased with considering the year, however, on the other hand, grades were disappointing with a rise of about 30pc in P grades.
Overall carcase weights were back about 6kg per head which combined with a drop of about 9c/kg dead weight (resulting from later sale dates and lower grades) saw a decrease of about €50 per head on last year's prices.