I watched the hailstones sliding down the window. Some piled into little mounds at the bottom while others jumped off to bounce on the patio below.

It was the end of March, a bleak and miserable day with a snow and sleet warning for Cork and Kerry. There had been showers of snow all morning. Tim waited for a break in the weather to let the cows out. I had chatted to a few farmers that day. In Tipperary, some cattle had been turned out to grass for a few days, only to be turned in again. It was the same story in other midland counties. In Mayo, there was no end to the rain in sight and many herds of cows and cattle hadn’t gone out at all. A week on and things haven’t improved.

Agriculture in bother

This morning, the cows are in the passage waiting to be let in for milking. I note two cows rising to mount others. The breeding season will be upon us in a few weeks. The natural cycles carry on despite the weather. Cows bulling run the risk of injury while they are still housed. The Teagasc advice is to get them out, even for short periods. Use any dry field or part of a field. Every bit helps to reduce the pressure on the system. Slurry tanks need emptying but big machinery can’t travel and the ground is not fit to take it on many farms. Crops need planting but fields remain water logged and impassable.

Silage is running out. I heard Tim ask Colm how many bales he had left. “Less than 20,” he answered. The number was similar for Woodside. The men chatted about the need to make as much silage as possible for the autumn, winter and possibly, next spring too. Planning for the rest of the year must go on. It is important to assess the fodder situation and making sure that animals can be fed.

Cash flow is becoming an issue on farms. Don’t let it get out of hand. Talk to your bank and explain your situation. Put credit facilities in place. Despite the awful weather, the temperature is rising. It can’t last forever and our individual farming year will be defined by how we manage this crisis now.

That’s when you know that there is a real crisis on farms - when the different programmes across various channels are covering the bad weather in relation to farming conditions

Last Thursday night, Caitríona Morrissey, deputy editor of the Irish Farmers Journal spelled out these problems on Prime Time. That’s when you know that there is a real crisis on farms - when the different programmes across various channels are covering the bad weather in relation to farming conditions. There’s something about Prime Time though. It made me worried for our agricultural community. The difficulties encountered in the farmyard by the farmer managing livestock that should be out grazing spills over into the kitchen. The family gets worried. Children in particular pick up on the anxiety. The tillage farmers who simply can’t work are stir crazy, watching the time for planting coming and going, and with it, at least part of their income for the year.

Agriculture is in bother, whether the business is livestock, crops, horticulture or contracting. So, how do farmers cope? Teagasc did a particularly good webinar on steps that farmers can take called ‘Managing the herd in current weather conditions.’ Watch it back on YouTube. It has good advice. Talk to your Teagasc advisor. Don’t miss your discussion group meetings. Go and have a chat with a neighbour and at least you won’t feel alone.

This tough time will pass

Some of us are around long enough to know that this tough time will pass and you’ll have chalked it down to the year of 2024 when the spring came wet and windy. You’ll tell the grandchildren we had to hold the cows in the passage for hours. We couldn’t travel the fields. The sheds rattled in the wind. Find the positives. For us, it will be the spring that our grandson was a baby and brought us all joy.

We will endure and the sun will shine again. Fields will fill with livestock and tractors will travel. Hold onto that thought.

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