Welcome to spring: From buffalo calf births to snail caviar
Big Week on the Farm, which returns to our screens next Monday night with a series of five hour-long programmes, is expected to top the 25pc total viewership ratings the RTÉ show achieved on its debut last year.
Dubbed by executive producer Liam Lavelle as "television's welcome to the spring", the show averaged a consolidated audience of 331,000 last year - 25pc of all viewers. It also attracted unprecedented engagement on social media and was one of the top five most watched programmes on the RTÉ Player over the week.
This year's Big Week on the Farm will again be presented by Áine Lawlor and Ella McSweeney and will be broadcast nightly from Patrick Shalvey's dairy farm in Co Cavan. It will also feature celebrity guest presenters including jockey Ruby Walsh, comedians Pat Shortt and Al Porter, Dancing with the Stars' Aoibhín Garrihy and model Vogue Williams.
Presenter Áine, who hails from Coolock in Dublin and has no agricultural background - "My father from Kerry had no land" - puts the success of Big Week on the Farm down to its audience participation and the immense preparation which goes into the production.
"It's audience driven, and this year's production has some stunning film of the wildlife and farm animal life around Patrick Shalvey's farm," she says. "And who will not be taken when we show the birth of animals?"
The series features satellite links to 10 farms across the country, covering a whole series of novel agricultural topics, from the birth of a buffalo calf, the laying of snail caviar, the arrival of newborn goslings, sheep dairying and farm-to-fork pork production.
The series will also highlight new research on barley varieties and how to reduce fertiliser use on farms. And for those interested in how the products of Irish agriculture end up, Clare hurling star Shane O'Donnell has allowed the programme makers to film the insides of his stomach and intestines to show how his body digests protein.
Big Week on the Farm, nightly on RTÉ1 at 7pm, Monday, April 3, to Friday, April 7