With plans coming together to venture to a grass-based dairy farm in Missouri, USA for the summer, I am ready to kick the final year exams out of the park, writes Emma McCormack – a student at Waterford Institute of Technology.
Weekend adventures and nights out are being sacrificed but all for a good cause, once I don’t have to open a book all summer.
Thankfully, lambing has gone relatively well at home and we are praying that the loads of sugar beet we are buying are coming to an end.
A bite of frosty weather saw a steady stream of young lambs make their way into the sitting room by the stove to dry off and thankfully most have made it back out. We have one pet lamb whose wee eyes were damaged by the wind and he seems to be a Permanent Pet, if you will. He is on the road to recovery, thankfully. Any takers?!
Going through about 3-tonnes of beet a day between sheep and cattle has kept cows in super order especially with the addition of good-quality hay.
To in-calve cows and ewes. we have been supplementing the diet with soya and it’s been super in helping them reach their milk yield, albeit expensive.
Meal bills are a give; however, as we push out of the winter and hope for an abundance of grass growth. The beet and hay combination has worked excellently.
With a beet pulped for the tractor that runs on hydraulics, it makes for straight-forward feeding and no mess with wet silage, or plastic wrap; the hay is going down a treat.
The Weather Chat
The weather has been kind to us over the winter months and I am sceptical of whether we are out of the woods or not. Climate change is causing the common weather trends we have always known to fluctuate and nobody really knows what’s ahead.
On the beef front, we signed up to the new BEEP scheme at home last week. It was the closing date and a decision was reached at the kitchen table over a cup of tea.
The appealing thing about the scheme is that if you decide it may not be for you, you can easily opt out without any issues. I have no issues with any scheme, from GLAS to BDGP and beyond, but the fact that farmers are having to rely on these payments to break-even takes a lot of enjoyment out of the whole thing.
Sustainable Irish agriculture
I have every hope that one day, sooner than we know it, Irish Agriculture will be governed in a fair, sustainable and profitable way for everyone involved. Sustainability is everyone’s new favourite word these days but executing plans and reaching targets doesn’t seem to be so straight-forward.
Within a Farm Management module currently, I am generating a very detailed 6-year-plan for my home farm, in which, I am projecting my figures ahead of time-based on some efficiency and major changes to our farm business.
It has made me reflect on how easy these aspirations can appear on paper and how we should be served a pinch of salt with it. Farming is so volatile, even the old-school cowboys tend to get caught between a rock and a hard place sometimes.
Setting goals is good, however, and that I did. Ideally, I would like to inject a lot of focus on the area of grassland management.
As beef and sheep farmers, we don’t worry much about grass. We either have it or we don’t. I would like to change this and strive to produce more each year of an increasingly high standard.
At just 7 cents per kilo, grass is one of the most accessible and cost-effective feeds, and our climate is perfect for growing it. Yet only 1,000 Irish farmers are found to be actually measuring grass effectively. This number saddens me yet also angers me somewhat.
I’m tired of hearing farmers complain about a lack of grass or the cost of feeds which they’re having to supplement.
There’s no problem with that, but if you don’t look after the land, if you allow it to be damaged beyond recovery or if you fail to make any efforts in yielding high-quality grass in large quantities, your argument is void.
It’s an issue at home and I don’t understand it at all. The lack of regard for the value of grass on non-dairy farms in incomprehensible to me.
What other crop do you know that the grower has no respect for and then complains when it’s establishment rates or yields are poor?Grass is a mighty resource that I feel we aren’t utilising correctly. With the rain we get and the pockets of sun, we are the perfect island for the best grass, which produces the best beef and milk. Yet it only works if we do.
On another note, I am looking forward to the WIT agricultural careers day in the WIT Arena next Friday. Although a smaller version than that of UCD’s RDS event, there are bound to be dozens of companies in attendance and plenty of jobs to be got.
College has taught me how to run when my tank is very low in sleep or fuel, and how to power through the semester’s exams without any major issues. It’s worked so far, anyhow!
I’ve had plenty of questions recently on social media with people asking me about my course, and whether I can recommend it or not. I am currently in my final year of the Level 7 BSc. in Agriculture in WIT.
A lot of our practical learning took place out in Kildalton Ag. College which isn’t too far away. I have the option of doing a single add-on year which will offer me a level-8 degree in Land Management. I have yet to decide whether to do it or not. I am getting itchy feet and am anxious to get travelling. I’ll see if I can get through this year first, anyhow.
I would recommend the course to anyone considering it. I find it to be a nice balance between pure unbridled science-based material, for example, the UCD Ag. Science course and another totally practical based learning such as the green cert. If you keep on top of it - it can’t get on top of you. That’s my only advice really.
Everyone is different though and it’s hard to know what you want but by going ahead and getting a degree whether you think you want to or not, you’re preventing yourself from being limited to jobs later in life and potentially having regrets - Life is much too short for those!