I attended Mass over Christmas, and could hardly hear the priest over the barrage of coughs, sneezes, snorts and other flu-induced afflictions.
Had I been at home on the farm and heard a pack of cattle spluttering in such a way, the crush gate would have been opened without delay, and a worm does administered to all.
But I think it isn’t worms afflicting so many this winter, apparently it’s the common flu. So common that everyone seems to have it. Everyone, that is, except for myself. I escaped.
A bit like a plump turkey escaping the festive clutches of a busy butcher, I am one of the few who escaped the terrible onslaught of this winter bug. And the reason I escaped, I believe, is the constant supply of beef I regularly fork down my gullet.
Be it steak, burger or succulent roast, it’s a very rare day that some form of beef isn’t on my menu.
There is a fad of course at the moment of reducing beef intake. “Environmental concern” being the buzzwords.
But as the church filled with a chorus of Christmas coughing, I had to wonder if cutting out what is clearly good for you might, in the long run, be bad for you.
Eating beef might be bad for the environment, but so is coughing in my face. And blowing your nose can’t be good for the ozone layer.
My hope for 2020 is that people start to use their own heads to decide what is good for them.
It’s still a free country, to the best of my knowledge.
So if you desire a steak for your supper, don’t be afraid to ask for it. It won’t cause a cataclysmic event, in spite of what you might have heard. And it might prevent you from getting the sniffles.
So, where do we stand with 2020 having dawned?
Well, the mere fact that we are standing at all says a lot for us. In beef farming, the year gone by needs to be put behind us in every sense. Like awakening from a terrible nightmare, the less said about it the better.
A young beef farmer I was talking to over Christmas (yes, they still exist) wants to stay in beef for as long as he can.
“Not every farmer is interested in milking cows, or that way of life,” he explained to me.
“It’s not a simple case of saying, oh I’ll become a dairy farmer now, because there is more money in it.
“I think a lot of people who have switched to dairy farming might become unhappy in the long run, because they are just not cut out for the way of life. It takes a lot of commitment to be a dairy farmer, in time and everything else, never mind the investment.
“You need to enjoy what you do as a farmer. At the end of the day, if you don’t, what good is it?”
Dairy farming might seem the be-all and end-all right now, but surely there has to be a fear of burnout in the sector, with many having stretched themselves to, and beyond, their limits. For a strong, healthy agricultural sector, a bit of balance is needed. Like that young suckler cow farmer pointed out to me, not every farmer
is cut out to be a dairy farmer.
Lets hope a bit more recognition is given to the others in Irish farming in 2020.
We still have young people eager to raise beef cattle, breed ewes, and follow their fathers in tillage and contracting. All we need is for those with youth and enthusiasm not to be forgotten, when it comes to support.