The outlook is good for 2017 but we can't afford any complacency
One of the advantages to spring calving is that the month of January is a relatively quiet month.
It gives us the opportunity to take stock on a number of fronts. We are in the process of completing our profit monitor for 2016.
Our Discussion group will meet with Tom, our Teagasc advisor, and go through the figures to see how we survived last year's milk price crash.
Those figures when combined with the state of the current account will give us a very good indication of how durable our farm business is. Based on that information we will form a plan for the year ahead.
We all expect 2017 to be an easier year financially, but we must not allow complacency to set in.
A lot of us have deferred capital repayments to the bank, increased our overdraft, or are carrying merchant credit. All of these may have been necessary but we must catch the bull by the horns from June onwards to regain control of our finances.
Bank overdrafts and merchant credit are very expensive so it is imperative the promised new low interest rate loans of 2.95pc are made freely available now.
Another hugely important area to address in the quiet time is health and safety. This is an area we all continue to work on and still the carnage continues.
Where is the kernel of the problem?
Half of the farm deaths over the last number of years are either under 18 or over 65.
Neither category would be found in most other workplaces When we talk about health and safety all the focus is on safety and very little on health. Does stress have an impact on our decision-making around safety?
Last year a lot of farmers made no money farming. They could not afford to pay labour but they still managed to keep the work done.
This invariably meant working much longer weeks than the standard employee in industry. We also work in a sector dictated by deadlines; some created by the EU, some by ourselves, and others by the weather
Yesterday (January 16) was a massive date on the calendar for slurry spreading. Many farms had animals housed early because of the wet autumn and have been looking at full tanks for a while now and are desperate to get slurry out.
This scenario, combined with many others such as bad weather at sowing or harvest time, leads to erratic and unpredictable working days along with added costs.
These all have an impact on our health or stress levels and knock-on affects on our decision-making.
What is very worrying when you look at the national farm income figures is that a big proportion of farms are unviable or making a small profit, while still requiring a substantial, if not full time, labour input.
Meanwhile, on the home front, we have without a doubt enjoyed our best year of winter grazing ever.
Ground conditions were really superb all through December and are still holding up very well.
The in-calf heifers will come onto the pad before January 20.
We will give them an oral fluke and worm dose, freeze brand them, and run them through the parlour daily to get them used to it.
We condition scored the cows and moved a few fat ones onto clean up rations and lighter ones onto 2kg of ration. Calf sheds are power washed and disinfected and we will get a fresh load of woodchip for under their pens as well as the calving pad. The preparation continues.
Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway, along with their son, Enda, and neighbour and out-farm owner John Moran.
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