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Opinion: What Covid-19 has taught this farmer

We all know that farming is more than just an occupation it’s a way of life, some would even go as far as saying it’s an addiction, writes The Wexford Farmer.

Now as a farmer, I am always looking for the holy trinity – Now, I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about prices, yields and weather.

Way back in January before social distancing, facemasks and hand sanitizer became the norm, things weren’t looking too bad.

The beef price was finally going the right direction after a winter of discontent, the cattle were fattening well and coming in quickly and well the weather wasn’t great, but, two out of three isn’t bad, things were tipping along nicely.

Fast forward a couple of months to March 1st. After the wettest February since Noah took them all onto the Ark for a spin, we all thought things can only get better – how wrong we all were? Along came Covid-19.

The first few weeks weren’t too bad for us farmers – sure we were in throes of calving and sure didn’t the weather pick up a bit, the stock could go out and we could get the crops in the ground.

We had the holy trinity for about a week anyway. Shock horror, the arse fell out of prices, St Patrick’s Day was cancelled, and we were in lockdown.

The pubs closed, you had to queue for the co-op and worst of all marts, were shut down.

Lockdown life didn’t really impact farmers

In the day-to-day run of things, lockdown life didn’t really impact us farmers.

We are after all an essential service (even though we’re not paid for it), we could move around freely, social distancing wasn’t really a problem, it would, after all, be an exciting day if you met the postman in the lane and the weather was still great.

However, in my own case, lockdown upset the other holy trinity, myself, the auld lad and the wife. 

The auld lad was lost, his whole routine was gone, no pint, no mass, and no mart. We might have Facebook, Snapchat, and Zoom to keep us sane, but he lost the original social network of rural Ireland, the mart.

Then we have the wife, she was off work due to lockdown and suddenly every single little job around the house had to be done.

If I ever see another paintbrush or a bit of garden furniture again, it’ll be too soon and then there was myself – caught between the two.

Silage season

Days turned into weeks and then it was silage season. The weather was still playing ball, the silage was cut and on the plus side, there was plenty of help to cover the pit.

The wife got a taste of what it was like to be full-time on the farm and it turns out she loved every minute of it, while the auld lad got going on Skype and there was talk of restrictions being lifted.

Phases and facemasks were the words on everyone’s lips, and you wouldn’t have your ear out for the mart report, instead, it was the daily Covid briefing.

Online marts

Finally, some of the restrictions were lifted, the wife was back to work – I’d say she was never as happy to go.

The auld lad was able to do a bit of visiting (maintaining social distance of course) and the marts went online.

Trying to explain how an online mart works to the auld lad was an experience, to say the least, so I told to watch an episode of bargain hunt and said it’s something like that.

It was much easier to explain the process to the wife and my own friends. It’s basically Tinder, for cows. The moral is to be careful with your swiping.

Learning experience

So here we are in June. Where do we stand in relation to the holy trinity? Well, prices have bounced for both beef and dairy and that’s where the good news stops.

We are all hoping for a bit of rain, parts of the country are in drought and yields are forecast to be poor for grain, straw, and second-cut silage.

So, what have I taken from the last few months? Firstly, I never thought my hands would consume more alcohol than my mouth.

Secondly, your health is your wealth, whatever about prices, yields and weather if you can get up every day and you and your family are healthy, things are not so bad.

I never thought I’d say this way back in February but here’s hoping for a shower of rain and a return to the new normal.

Remember, the grass will grow, prices will rise and fall, and things will get better. At the end of the day, That’s Farming.

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