It can be difficult for farmers to switch on the ‘Out of Office’ message, as there is almost always something to be done on the farm. But many say it’s worth the effort to get a well-earned break, writes Niamh Hayes
How many farmers do you know who can really switch on the ‘Out of Office’ message and take a holiday?
You’d probably say ‘very few’.
But experts say it’s vitally important to take a break, and recharge the batteries, no matter what your day job is, and that’s particularly true for farmers whose job is so demanding.
The key, local farmers agree, is to be organised.
Cormac O’Keeffe is a dairy farmer from Courleigh, Clonakilty and is chairperson of Carbery Group. He and his family holidayed abroad this year.
‘We were in Salou in Spain for a week at the end of July, and start of August. We have always taken a week’s holidays around that time of year when our children are on their summer break,’ says Cormac.
‘We had holidayed in Ireland for the past few years. It was great to rediscover parts of the country that we hadn’t seen in years. This year, with the lifting of travelling restrictions, we decided to go foreign.’
Cormac says that it can be hard to find the time to get away, but having someone reliable there to look after the place is very important.
‘There’s probably never an easy time to get away from the farm, but in early August, we find it’s the easiest. All the calving is finished, and all the stock are out on grass.
‘I’m lucky to have a reliable relief milker who milks on a regular basis, so he sees after the cows and stock while we’re away.’
The busy period in the build-up to the holiday means that the break is truly needed when it comes.
‘The weeks leading up to the holiday can be very busy, trying to get everything organised before heading off. We would try to have everything up to date before leaving, such as having all the young stock dosed and moved to fresh pastures, to keep them content for the week.
‘This year we also were at the second cut of silage before we left and we covered it before leaving, so the break was very welcome,’ he recalled.
Cormac believes that getting away is always worth it.
‘It is difficult to plan and go on breaks, but so necessary to have such valuable family time, especially when the children are young. It’s really about organising and having reliable people to cover for you while you’re gone.’
Tommy Moyles runs a suckler to beef herd in Ardfield and Ballinascarthy. He holidayed in Ireland this year.
‘We got away for a few days to the Westport area of Mayo, at the end of June. I had a few other things going on, so I couldn’t go further away, or for much longer this year,’ says Tommy.
‘My brother and father looked after the stock in Ballinascarthy as they’re closer to them, while I got someone in to check on the cattle in Ardfield when I was away.’
Tommy’s last big trip was in 2018 when he went to Australia for a few weeks, but he has had some staycations in Ireland since the pandemic.
In terms of ease of getting away, Tommy says it depends on the time of year, but the key is being organised.
‘There’s more work in winter with drystock, as the cattle are housed. But it’s possible to get away if required – you just need to work out the costs of labour to cover you while you’re away.
‘February to mid-June would be busier due to calving, breeding and silage. Summer is a relatively straightforward time of the year workwise, compared to winter. The flipside of that is holiday costs increase, of course.’
Tommy says a bit of preparation can go a long way when organising a holiday and there are two key things to have to hand.
‘The diary and a calculator are important when planning a break!’ he says.