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Part time farming - Time saving techniques

  • 01-08-2023 10:22am
    Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭

    Since there is quite a number of part time farmers here, it would be beneficial to share some of your bits a pieces of your daily routine to save time. Everyone has a busy time of the year and for me it's late spring

    On my side, I'm a suckler and calf to beef farmer, finishing around 80 cattle a year, lucky to have it in one block and one yard.

    Time saving varies from season to season but one common trend I find it preparation. Currently at the moment here winter will creep up and a bit of work is taking place to have the yard ready. Having time to get on top a few things really helps. For me over the next few wet days is a small bit of welding repairs, clean a few gutters and fix 2 lights. The big time savers I have found for the winter is having all feed in the yard at the autumn. A home made silage pusher ( has the 4 prong fork gathering dust), a Barrow with 2 wheels for moving meal. Extra buckets are a big help. Having bin outside of the door of the shed where most of the meal is feed. Strip the pit enough for the week ( doesn't always work out exactly. It's an ex dairy farm here and quiet a number of cubicles. 5 years ago I put scrapers in and this is saving over 1.5hrs a week cleaning out. Tams really helped here

    I put up a new crush a few years ago in the yard and cattle can be moved easily with one body to do all work, lights over the whole area is a real help. If you wish you can quickly dose some cattle on a dry evening.

    While the typical winter feeding is taking place, it's generally a quiet time of the year, prep work takes place for spring and any running repairs on machinery is done( small jobs) everyone has an interest area and its important to foster this, this keeps enjoyment in the job. It might be a small project ( either a small bit of building, outdoor work,what ever takes your fancy)

    Spring has changed a bit over the past 5-10 years. Cow numbers have dropped by about 10, calving period has moved from Feb to April and bucket fed calves have increased from 20 to 60. Having a large number of yearlings it makes it easier to get these to grass early and clear the sheds. A few strip wires and small groups of 15-20 works well, but you can only play the weather and ground in front of you. This spring I put an auto feeder in and it has been a game changer on time and rearing. Again Tams help hugely here. You are not watching the watch as much once calves are on going on the feeder. Most of the work with calves is done by the time the cows start calving. A different view on suckler breeding has taken place. My motto is; cow must calf on her own, calf must get up on his own and cow must go back in calf. Early April let's cows go out to calf in a bit of paddock. If weather is bad they are turn back up into the shed for hay. having them outdoors really and watching the feed really helps calving. All bar 2 unassisted this year ( backwards calf and one with ropes that had slowed down). I luck to have a friend that will throw his eyes on the calving cows, and the favour is returned if he goes on holidays or drawing in bales in the summer. The quad is super handy

    Summer is just handy gather fodder, or topping or fencing, cattle work etc.

    General theme is a bit of planning, staying on top of maintenance as needed, and always doing small improvements. Use of the contractor is vital, but plenty notice is key here. Getting as much stuff you need delivered is key and being prepared for the Saturday is vital. Doesn't always go to plan but it helps. A short to do list is handy with urgent, medium term and long term. I use keep notes on the phone and tick it off.

    Paperwork, use herdwatch for most things and keep it updated as I go, and of late suppliers have moved to paperless which is fantastic.

    Sunday is day off here, bar the basics of checking stock or having fodder to be gathered, it's a day off. I have never in 20 years spread slurry, put out fertiliser, or dosed cattle on a Sunday. It's vital to take that time. Often Sundays herding takes a bit longer as I often slow down to soak in the surroundings of the seasons and watching stock graze. It's good for the mind.



  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 3,718 Mod ✭✭✭✭Siamsa Sessions

    I've no list of tips and tricks but one thing that's saved me time (and my back) is putting a half-ton meal bin beside whatever cattle I'm feeding. You have to move it with the tractor and bale handler every few days but that's it - just bucket the meal into the troughs whenever you go out to check them. I was filling small bags in the shed before this and carrying them out to the field.

    Another thing I've started to do when I'm setting up permanent paddocks is to put a gap at the back of the paddock. That is, there's a gap at either end which makes it easier to move cattle. Nothing worse than them going back to one corner and looking at you as you try to explain to them they need to walk to a different corner for fresh grass! I don't always need to use that extra gap but it only costs around €10 (extra timber stake, fence handle, egg insulator) and it's there whenever I do need it.

    Trading as Sullivan’s Farm on YouTube

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭mr.stonewall

    That's fierce handy to keep extra gaps. Makes it even easier for the contractor if going grom paddock to paddock.

  • Registered Users Posts: 285 ✭✭smallbeef

    Great thread. Agree that preparation and planning is key. Time spent on the farm is always restricted for part-timers so putting it to good use is critical.

    I make a list of jobs to do in the evenings on the phone via google sheets during a quiet period at work. Just find it handier than pen and paper as I always have the phone. I find a do-do list focuses the mind and I can think trough tasks before carrying them out.

    Also make lists of stuff I need next time I'm in the creamery/hardware store/vets so I'm not running for little things often.

    Store to beef here wintering 35-40 heads here so winter routine is pretty easy. No ration. Just good silage and a dust of minerals. I put in a router and a few cameras last year so I can monitor silage levels etc on the phone, its a nice time saver as the sheds are 5 mins drive from home, also can get them to finish up the silage before adding new stuff.

    Spring is busiest here as would be trying to get cattle out early in batches. Also would have yearlings bought. Having the wires up at the weekends a big help when the evenings are short. Having good perimeter fencing in all fields makes block/strip grazing very quick.

    Haulier does all cattle moves between 2 farms, just needs a bit of notice. Contractor does silage/slurry. No point trying to do it all.

  • Registered Users Posts: 53 ✭✭1848

    Lot of good stuff here & I do most of the things outlined myself. Having a good contractor is vital & minimise time spent doing machinery myself - mowing, topping, fert. Spreading mainly. If you work out the rate per hour for time spent on farm it can be quite good - over €20/hour possible (incl. BISS etc). If not making something reasonable then you have to question the operation - lease out to local dairy farmer!

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,168 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    Often Sundays herding takes a bit longer as I often slow down to soak in the surroundings of the seasons and watching stock graze. It's good for the mind.

    This. There is nothing better than on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon than watching content stock out grazing on good fields of grass. Not a sound from them bar the ripping off the grass as they eat.

    At the end of it all, like many part time farmers we're not going to make millions at it - it might balance the books or return a bit of money, but the next best thing is to enjoy it and take pride in what you are producing.

    Take your time, you'll get it done.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 8,168 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    I should probably add some stuff to this.

    Tidiness - everything having a place and everything in its place. When you are on limited time saves lots of time hunting for hammers or foot spray or whatever.

    Having one of those big plastic shopping baskets to put the dose and stuff in to cart it about.

    Cleaning out sheds bit by bit when you have some free time rather then trying to dedicate a day or two for it.

    Soaking down the sheds for a day or two prior to washing. And a turbo nozzle for the washer.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,859 ✭✭✭893bet

    Farm type has a huge bearing. I see lots of lads throwing the “if you can’t do it on less than an hour a day, then you are wrong”. They have never worked a fragmented farm of heavy land.

    My farm of 26 ha of grazing (some rough) is heavy and very fragmented across 8 different blocks. Ranging from 1acre fields up. The amount of time spent moving cattle can be significant. The amount of fencing to be maintained is huge.

    Its very hard to make improvements to make things easier. I work full time (maybe 2 days at home lucky enough) and when going to work I am up at 6 due to long commute and rarely home before 7. With a young family there just is not time or else I am not making time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭mr.stonewall

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭mr.stonewall

    The theme of the thread was how can we improve on time, small things during the daily routine can help.

    I will agree that fragmented farms are a serious killer on time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,980 ✭✭✭Hard Knocks

    Similar boat here, some years you can get a few things done over odd Saturday’s and other times the to do list grows. Have to agree with some posters, been part time having the basics (good fencing with proper gates, water, & good handling facilities) right means allot. Then working a system to suit your farm and little things to work smarter not harder. It’s very easy to burn the candle at both ends

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,143 ✭✭✭MIKEKC

    Yes and the taxpayer funding your lifestile. Why wouldn't you be enjoying it

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,163 ✭✭✭Tileman

    Absolut ridiculous comment. How is the tax payer funding his lifestyle

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,168 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,859 ✭✭✭893bet

    Either a joke that your forgot the smileys or you are still waiting for the call back from the below post?

  • Registered Users Posts: 664 ✭✭✭ABitofsense

    For me and my handful of sucklers is I'm lucky that my father used to do dairy before I took over so very good clean land all in paddocks, troughs and easily rotation around the yard. So inherited good setup.

    My main things (other than what's listed before) is

    - training the cows to come to a bucket of nuts. This is the only reason I'm able to do sucklers! I'm at the stage with them that once they hear the yard gate open their at the paddock wire, calves & all ready to come in. Heifers when I buy in learn from the others and calves learn from their mothers. This makes AI, dosing, vets or whatever a stress free process for the sake of about ~12 bags of nuts over the summer.

    - Cull problem animals. In my case, anything that doesn't go with my system gets culled. Life's too short to be running around fields after them!

    - Lights & Cameras. I've no black spots around the yard from a safety point of view. Kids love being up there helping in the winter and makes life so much easier with cameras about too.

    - Set a yearly goal/project. Over the last few years I've set a yearly project to achieve as part of farm improvement. If like me you've a stressful desk job, working on the farm doing something opposite be it welding making something, knocking walls for calving gates etc I find very therapeutic.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,143 ✭✭✭MIKEKC

    Not a joke collect the subs myself and enjoy seeing the stock thrive. Just saying it as it is.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,143 ✭✭✭MIKEKC

    Without the subs every farmers life would be very different.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,859 ✭✭✭893bet

    Don’t feed him lads.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,914 ✭✭✭farawaygrass

    Great thread and I can’t really add anything that is said above.

    one thing I’m planning on during shortly for the winter and spring a head is put in a sink with a hot water source. Boiling kettles is a pain.

    while I think of it too, we’d have to water the individual pens with the sheep are lambing. But having a barrel close by to pull buckets of water from rather than waiting for a bucket to fill from a tap is a big time saver.

    finally, I wouldn’t be worried too much about price on certain things or what people think of your spending. If it makes your life easier and gives you more free time then it’s money well spent, and improvements on infrastructure etc are more or less a life time job

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭mr.stonewall

    A very simple time saver I have found with bucket fed calves while rearing is to leave a large square bale in the pen and drop another on top. Serves for shelter and makes topping up bedding super quick. Pop the bottom bale on top the next time. If you have 2 pens side by side leave it beside the gate and it will serve both pens

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,588 ✭✭✭Cavanjack

    Working full time . Buy in roughly 200 head here a year. Nearly all online now. Serious time saver. Or should I say it means I’ve more time at home anyway. Used to spend half my time off hanging round marts when I should have been at home.

    I try to have a full stock of consumables on hand for repair work all in racked shelves. Water fittings, fencing equipment, nuts bolts etc. I rarely go to collect anything in hardwares. This is a hugh waste of time having to head off to pick stuff up imo. Sprays, fertilizer dosing etc. is all bought in time and again it’s either delivered or get parents/wife to pick stuff up when in town.

    On day to day stuff is all about having everything where it’s supposed to be including stock. The whole place is electric fenced with concrete drinkers. Good safe facilities are very important. Gates gates and more gates hanging everywhere round the yard. Land is split up so have 4 crushes with the main one in the yard under cover.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,838 ✭✭✭amacca

    But it's so tempting........he's good, makes you just itch to take a swipe at him! 😅

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,143 ✭✭✭MIKEKC

    Why would you take a swipe?. I'm just dealing in facts. As I said I avail of the subsidies . Would anyone disagree that you couldn't make a living without subs with the exception of pigs and dairy?

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,859 ✭✭✭893bet

    You are trolling.

    The person you swipped at in your first pots was talking to another chap about how they work hard all day at the day job. And then try and fit in farming part-time. And one of the joys they take is maybe on a Sunday to not rush the farming side of things and to instead take in the beauty of nature for a few minutes while herding.

    And you pulled that back to something something something taxpayers funding the lifestyle

    If you are farming you must be miserable.

    /I won’t respond further so say what you like.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,046 ✭✭✭emaherx

    Absolutely, no 2 farms are going to be the same. I've a fragmented farm here but always tried to keep the workload to an hour or less during the week when I was working full time, didn't always work out and always left some catching up work at the weekends. Biggest time saver for me was replacing the Jeep trailer with an 18ft tractor trailer and secure pens to load. Paddocks have helped with grass management but more importantly have trained the cattle to go through gateways when called making loading a one man job.

    Working part time now and probably spend more time on the farm daily but it doesn't feel like it as I'm not as rushed but also still have more family time and down time. Thought I'd have caught up a lot more on the general maintenance of the place but really haven't, I blame the wet summer and totally not procrastination.

    I don't think this thread is intended to beat lads up about spending too much time working their farms but more to share the ideas of how we can all save some time for other jobs, kids or just extra down time. Young families definitly leave time a precious commodity and shouldn't be overlooked as they won't be young for long.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭mr.stonewall

    I saw once where a farmer had sewer pipe capped at both ends and a ballcock fitted, running along the back of individual pens. Holes cut for out for each pen.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,446 ✭✭✭cjpm

    Jeez that’s a clever one for individual penning. And just take of one of the caps to let it drain to freshen up the water when required.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,716 ✭✭✭mr.stonewall

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,313 ✭✭✭Anto_Meath

    1 thing I find helps working with the suckler cows is to only keep quite heifers for cows. Anything anyway flighty gets the road. There no time to dealing with wild cattle. Sometimes I will bring a bit of meal with me to sprinkle on the grass so cattle are used of me & will come running to me if I have a bucket. I find it handy for moving the around.

    This year for the cows coming in heat I have found the "Heatmount" heat detection patches very handy. Saves time standing in the field to see if any are on heat.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,046 ✭✭✭emaherx

    Damn right anything flighty or aggressive should be sent packing. All of my cows will follow me to and through a gateway with or without meal. I'm getting out of sucklers though this year and it's one of my biggest concerns is how bought in young cattle will differ now.