As the nation is wrapped up in the height of the festivities, farm families throughout the island are also celebrating the festive cheer.
Operating a family-run drystock and suckler farm with 150 cattle in Co. Mayo means that my father and I are kept far from idle. We cannot abandon ship, shut the farm gate and hang up our wellies to allow them to gather dust.
Our farming agenda on Christmas Day does not differ from the responsibilities we have the remaining 364 days of the calendar, although I must admit only the complete essential jobs are conducted. A quick visit to the farm to take a glance around the sheds in the afternoon before indulging a turkey from our local craft butcher isn’t exactly how Christmas Day proceedings roll on our farm.
Shortly after the crack of dawn, we pop our wellies on and eagerly kick-start our Christmas morning. All tasks including silage feeding, the filling of water barrels and stock checks are conducted to the same extent as every other morning.
We are always on the alert; for a sick, injured or lame animal, a potential calving case or anything else that may swing our way. With youth on our side and ‘efficiency’ being the buzz word, you’d be surprised how much ground we can cover in three hours.
Once all the jobs on the farm are completed, we can finally close the gate, enjoy our Christmas Day dinner and spend quality time with our family, friends, close relatives and friends; our entire community network. For many, that is where the true meaning of Christmas lies; spending time with the important people in our lives, to help unwind from all work-related matters.
For me, that can only happen once I know that every Autumn-born calf has sucked his mother that morning, that every cull cow has consumed her share of concentrates and that all the cattle are in top form. Then I can swap the wellies for the heels and celebrate Christmas like the majority of people around the country.
Christmas does not mean operation shut down for farmers, it’s a case of operation slow down.
While it is important to fulfil your duty as a farmer, it is just as important to close that farm gate. The season only comes around once a year, so make it worthwhile and treat yourself to some well-deserved time-off. Calving 2018 is just around the corner and it's going to be a busy season on many farms.
That's Farming would like to take this opportunity to wish all our followers a Happy and safe Christmas.