Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Suckler Cows have started Calving

We left the calves with them for most of the winter only weaning them in mid February, by this time it had pulled the mothers down, so almost all of the herd now looks "poor" or should I say slim.

Well its that time of year again and the suckler cows have started calving, so far we have had two.  Three years ago we went through a nightmare calving period where almost every other cow wanted assistance and also we lost a cow and a couple of calves during calving.
We had three sets of twins, one twin calf we found dead at three weeks old with a twisted gut.
 We had not had a cow have twins for almost twenty years, then as they say about London busses three come along all together.
Even the older mature and reliable cows were in trouble, I put it down to a different feeding regime.

The only feed they get every winter is round bale silage made off the same meadows that they graze on, made in July, and containing some of the soft rush rushes that are native to meadow pastures.

Over the winter of 2008/09 we thought it would be a good idea to feed a high energy mineral/ molasses lick supplement, you know the one's where they come in a four gallon bucket, just take the lid off and drop it in the field.
In my opinion, this had grown the calf inside the cow and produced the large calves, it also coincided with the change of bull, and at the time, all the blame was put at his door.

 But on reflection, some of the cows were fatter than we had had them in other years. So the following backend 2009 when we should be weaning all the calves, we sorted out the first calf heifers and a few slimmer cows, and weaned their calves. The rest of the cows that were still too fat, we left the calves with them for most of the winter only weaning them in mid February, by this time it had pulled the mothers down, so almost all of the herd now looks "poor" or should I say slim.

We have always out wintered the cows, none have ever been in a shed other than the first winter as weaned calves. Our herd is almost like a "hefted" herd, as you get in sheep when they know their own mountain pasture and born to that area of grazing. So it is that our cows, they are used to the peaty meadows that are dissected with bottomless drainage ditches, they get used to the ditches as calves and know its not a good idea to slip in, in fact the odd calf does drop in but never a second time, and nearly always get themselves out.

I dread to think of the time when someone else will bring a new set of cattle to graze down there, and the months they will have of dragging cows or cattle out of ditches, until all have learned their lesson. On the other hand, when I retire, the wise new comer could or would or should buy my "hefted" cows off me and continue the meadow grazing in a safe and reliable manner.

 To read more about these meadows refer back to the blog "Farming on a Peat Bog" or just press link     http://bit.ly/rhysHz

Another place where I talk about these peaty meadows "Moles and Meadows" is here along with a few pictures http://bit.ly/dIVOAU

Signs of Spring

Signs of spring are starting to show,
Though on the hill tops forecast snow,
Bright sunshine warms the sodden ground,
Cold showers and hail still abound.

Lawns and fields look brighter green,
Daffodils open and trumpets beam,
Grass it grows on lawn and verge,
Not on the fields, for the stock to purge,

Birds in hedgerow look to build nests,
Leaf buds appear as if by request,
First eggs are laid soon to be sat,
Full cover of new leaves, hides them thereat.

Badgers are trailing litter to nest,
Digging and cleaning for breeding quest,
Rarely seen but they root for worms,
Under hedgerows and cow pats presence confirms.

Soil it warms in the suns rays,
Germinate seeds dormant upraised,
Soon the countryside transformed and fresh,
Everything growing and looking its best.


If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: If we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

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