Farmers - the ultimate multi-taskers!
In today's world it is not possible to farm without these three things: A mobile phone, a credit card, and access to broadband. Today's farmers have to have an increasing range of skills in order to survive. Quite apart from their day to day farming work, they have to be amateur vets, builders, mechanics, horticulturalists, beauticians and data collectors - sometimes all in the one day!
Of course, there is a bewildering array of technology to make this easier, and agriculture is such an important industry in Ireland that a lot of new development has taken place - in theory making life easier for farmers.....
Farmers now operate in a very bureaucratic world and compliance with EU regulations and Department of Agriculture rules is very important, if you want to receive your payments and subsidies. Time spent interpreting the rules is time well spent, and full compliance is required. The "eye in the sky" can now see over your farm and if you have large parts of it running to gorse/scrub or burned out of season, your payments will be docked or stopped altogether. Any little parcels of land, growing anything unauthorised, will be picked up!
When it comes to the birthing process, there is a bewildering array of technology available to those farming valuable livestock - cattle and horses, mainly. From devices that are attached to the tail of a cow and record contractions, to devices used internally, measuring temperature/pelvic ligament relaxation/behavioural changes, farmers now are able to manage their calving/foaling, having received this information by text to their phones! When it comes to sheep however, the cost of this technology makes it unviable so most farmers rely on the traditional "sleep deprivation for three weeks" method of regular shed inspection!
Calves must be tagged with a tag in each ear within 20 days of birth or before they leave the holding, if this occurs before day 20. Birth registration must take place within seven days of tagging and at the latest before calves reach 27 days of age. Cows even have their own paper passport, which also records any tests that take place.
Sheep basically wear their passports in their ear - when you look at a sheep tag, as shown below, there is a lot of information. The country of origin, the flock number and the animal's own personal number are shown, and all off farm of origin movements are recorded. These devices currently cost €1.35 per tag, according to the expert I consulted for this blog! If your sheep is wearing a blue tag, it has been fitted with a "ruminal bolus" - a device placed in the stomach of the animal!
However, despite these advances in technology, I was reassured to see that not everything has changed, for one farmer at least! The traditional "deep litter" filing system, complete with elderly note books seems to be alive and well, at least in this Wicklow farm!