Let's hope for success and a hassle-free birthing season for real farmers
'Tillage is not real farming. With the big machines it can be completed in a few days and you can head to Spain or Ballybunion for the rest of the year.
Calving cows and lambing sheep: now that's real farming in my book," said the man beside me at the mart.
Tillage farmers will point to poor margins and harvesting hardships, but I can see where the mart man is coming from. Machinery has allowed tillage farmers to scale up, but there is no machine that will take a calf from a cow or lambs from ewes and ensure that that the newborn gets that first vital feed of beestings.
If you are in livestock then getting that lamb or calf out alive and over the hump of the first weeks is critical.
In my own case, the annual lambing was the farming event most likely to engage the children as they grew up. They were prepared to take holidays to coincide with the lambing. My wife is from Dublin city and she too gets involved in the lambing process. Not only her but a couple of her Dublin friends have taken to the lambing and will enquire after individual cases when they are back in the metropolis.
Spring birthing can be the best and worst of times in the livestock calendar. There is the enormous pleasure of seeing a calf or a lamb getting to its feet and taking its first suck; there is the enormous sense of loss from the newborn that fails to take those first breaths.
Now there is a double whammy from dead cattle and sheep: knackeries are charging €140 for taking a young cow carcass. Every dead calf or ewe is costing €20 in the knackery.
The person you meet these days with the bags under the eyes has very likely come from the farm maternity ward. He or she knows how tight margins are -- losses must be minimised.