Viewpoint: Many farmers wear the heavy workload as a badge of honour
It's not the first time I've heard the word sustainability and farming bandied about in the same sentence. Yet rather than referring to the environment, this time there was a whole other aspect to the talk of sustainability - preserving farmers' health.
There were plenty of younger faces at the latest Teagasc spring grazing walk on the farm of dairy farmer and Macra member PJ O'Keeffe in Callan, Co Kilkenny.
And aside from the talk centring on the very obvious difficulties of the poor growth rates due to the cold weather, another topic that cropped up was the sustainability of long working hours.
Afterwards PJ O'Keeffe spoke about a work/life balance, something few in farming ever take the time from their 60/70 hours-a-week schedules to ever properly think about.
"Young people think dairying is sexy - we're afraid to say it isn't all it is cracked up to be," says PJ.
The 30-year-old feels many in the industry are "institutionalised" into accepting the heavy workload, something that many wear as a badge of honour. Yet he points out the importance of a life off-farm, especially community involvement through sport or other events, as key to protecting mental health and warding off isolation.
"This year has highlighted it to me. We are farming for a reason - it is to make a living. It is not to work ourselves into the ground. We need to focus on what is important.
"You can work 19 hours a day but unless it is sustainable going forward we are wasting our time," he says, pointing out his family's old milking parlour meant five hour milkings and wasn't able for the workload from 320 cows.