Milk & Honey, The Life Of An Irish Dairy Farmer

irish dairy farmer

The weekly log of a dairy farmer’s life is pretty mundane and can have the intensity and the repetition of ‘groundhog day’. Basically you move cows, clean cows, milk cows, clean cows, move cows, milk cows on a never ending carousel of tasks broken only by a spot of trouble shooting as a case of scour or a faulty machine interrupts the flow of milk and work. It’s a demanding job with diminishing returns (for this year anyway) Diary of a dairy farmer. This is what the media says about my demanding job.

‘By comparison with other employments, dairy farmers can have very good family lives. Farmers can have many more hours, per day, of contact with their children, being available to take, and collect, them from school, etc. reasonable working hours, time management … and (they have) a little freedom to come and go as the need arises.

I will keep those words as a mantra as I rise from my bed at 5.30 for the first milking. Sure, the above paragraph is likely to be true if you compare dairy farming with Chinese miners, junior doctors and television licence inspectors, but in general the lot of a dairy farmer is far from ideal and rosy. It is no walk in the park, but a trudge through the muddy fields with the sideways rain on your face and ‘the girls’, as I call the herd, in an unhurried amble, single file to the milking parlour.

I often get asked: “Well what do you do all day? ” So I thought it was time to spell it out. Dairy Farming is a 365 day a year job, we don’t get to take sick days or Christmas day and there is a lot to get done in a day. So here is a look at what our day really looks like.

5.30 am: The shock of placing warm feet into cold wellies. A quick coffee and it’s off to the field to collect the girls. They are usually waiting.

6 am: The milker is rinsed and the parlour ready as the cows wait in the holding pen.

6:15 am: Milking Starts. Lyric FM to keep the ambiance nice and chilled for the girls. The hum of the milkers and 740 cows to get through.

9:00 am: Cows all head back to the fields, or into the sheds in winter and then you are into feeding (which is a whole other days work!)

9:15 am: Milking parlour cleaned down. The milking parlour is power washed and scooped out, That many cows make quite a mess in 3 hours.

10:00 am: Is it breakfast time yet? Only if all the girls are well and happy. The odd cow having an off day or looking a bit peaky is separated and moved to a holding pen.

10:30 am: Milking is finished up. The machines are rinsed and hung up to wash. Dogs, chickens, cats and finally, myself, enjoy a hearty breakfast.

11:00 am: .The calves get fed and their bedded area is also cleaned. Also take a few minutes just to observe everyone for calving. Contract calves would make life easier and it is an option for the future.

11:30 am: Five and half hours work done as the postman arrives. Now comes the fun part. Do I fence, manage the manure, fix things, clean the odd calf shed, medicate and dose.

13:00 pm: Lunch. Seven hours in and past the average industrial working day.
After lunch it’s a trip to the creamery for supplies or back to the never ending fencing, weed tipping, manure spreading joy that is dairy farming.

3:30 pm: Coffee break…if lucky.

6:00 pm: The girls are ready to be brought back in again. The slow methodical walk to the milking parlour can take a long time if they are in one of the top fields and is fraught with danger, if we need to cross the road.

6:45pm: milking as before.

8:30 pm: By now we’ve usually finished on the Ladies side and head to take care of the calves. They get fed milk, grain and hay according to their age. We calve year round, so the number varies but there is usually about 200 calves to care for in this age range.

9:00 pm: We are done milking. The machines are again rinsed and hung up to wash. The parlour is closed up and tidied up. The milker is then washed and turned off.

As a family farm, there are no employees and the amount of help is dependent on the school term, visiting family and a variety of reasons that combine to make helping hands a welcome release in the milking sheds. It’s a tough enough life, and it is certainly a busy one but it suits me. I dream of future plans for investment that would bring Once a day milking and a welcome release, but for now it is what it is. A day in my life, week, month year. So what did you do today?

Author: is based in Ballyconnell Co Cavan.The company was established in 1991 and is a family run business serving the Agri needs and requirements in the west Cavan area.Agridirect aim is to provide our offering of Agri products at a competitive price anywhere in the country- giving you the convenience of buying from your home.

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