Year of the 8 hours per day wellies

I’d left my Wellingtons outside the back door overnight.

“Ah, damn,” Balling up a few sheets of newspaper, I stuff them deep inside. They draw the water from the sole and the sides. I toss the damp paper into the bin in the office and repeat the process.

I’m reminded of what one of the lads who works in my local Glanbia store said when I bought this particular pair six months ago. “There are two things in a farmer’s life that he should make sure are comfortable, his bed and his wellies.”

I smiled. “Do you wear them eight hours a day?” he asked. Probably, I replied. “Well then, think about it,” he repeated. His logic was impeccable. This particular pair has insoles you can replace when they become worn. Of course, leaving them outside to get sogging wet doesn’t help!

Suitably booted, I head off on my rounds. The first patch of green I cross is the back lawn, it’s drowned, a sure sign that the night just gone has seen more heavy rain. The sky is grey and downcast, more to come, I think.

I decide to go the long way around, to avoid the bundles of bullocks and heifers nearest the yard. I gradually begin turning over in my mind the strategy for moving what needs to be moved, so as to not have the various groups clashing in adjoining fields or paddocks.

In a normal year, I would have a lot more scope at this time, but the weather has put entire blocks of paddocks out of the equation for weeks on end, due to their heavy nature.

It’s meant that on occasion, as grass ran a little tight or the forecast predicted more rain, I’ve opened up the yards and moved the odd bundle of cattle indoors to give the place a chance to recover.

It’s not an ideal situation, because the bullocks in particular, due to their heavier weights, don’t like the concrete, but it has been necessary.

Today, however, I’ve got options. Starting with the furthest away group — who are looking forlorn after the night’s rain — I open the electric fence and quickly get out of the way as they gallop forward. They charge in, but quickly drop their heads and begin grazing — all bar one that is.

A big, whitish Holstein type Friesian, he decides to head to the end of the field, tail up, sending divots flying skywards in the process.

“You fucking bastard,” runs through my mind, as I imagine the rest following. Four out of the 30 do, but only half-heartedly, and they soon stop and return to grazing. “Whitey” makes his way back up looking like mischief personified.

Leaving them, I head across a field that was cut and baled during the last dry spell, towards the next batch.

It’s depressing, to be honest, to feel the ground yielding so easily under my boots, and to see big pools of standing water here and there. I press on, trying not to think too deeply.

I move all the remaining groups onto after-grass, although the paddocks or fields they leave behind aren’t fully grazed out.

The ideal philosophies as preached by Teagasc in relation to correct grazing practice are largely unattainable this summer, as all farmers strive to limit ground damage or just find a dry lie for stock. Thrive has obviously been affected, with the plainer animal in particular often looking like he’s not thriving — or worse, going backwards.

That said, any few warm, sunny and completely dry days that do come have everything looking very well. All that has stood to us this year has been our own resilience, and the fact that in general, it hasn’t been cold — that, and the hope that the autumn might bring an Indian summer?


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