Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Cattle out wintering

Cattle out wintering

It looks like the beginning of a two week cold snap; the cattle seem to have grown a longer woolly coat almost over night, and its still only third week in November. (I wrote this back then)  In general the stock has grown well through the summer and with a reasonable quality of silage to feed should be able to maintain condition on throughout the winter.
As always we have a few that have lost an ear tag, in one case lost both, but then that's not unusual, most often its alongside sheep netting that they get caught or round the ring feeder that the missing tags are found.

The gates are nearly all open between the fields and the herd is ranging across most of the farm, gleaning round the maize stubbles and hedge banks and wildlife strips. We have offered silage and just a few cows are coming back to the ring feeders and pecking at it.

A few days on and we have a covering of snow and they are now on full silage winter feeding, although there is always some that prefer to top up on any grass they can nuzzle down to and pull at hedge banks.

Now I am a cow and telling me tale

Now I am a cow and telling me tale, Owd Fred he's writing it down,
Started life as a little seed, with hundreds I'm not on me own,
Ventualy sent and injected, into a poor old mother cow,
Met with an egg and we welded, together held tight somehow.

Started to double in size, and a head with eyes was formed,
Then four legs and a tail, growing in a ball transformed, 
Front legs started to point forward, with me chin on me knees,
Too big to stay where I was, getting shoved out if you please.

Front feet they're out in the cold, me nose is feeling fresh air,
Then me eyes and head they are outside, no going back in their,
Me shoulder and hips it's a struggle, but suddenly drop in the straw,
I'm hear, I'm wet, and I'm breathing, out here its cold and it's raw.

Mother she's got up and lickin, all over me face and me belly,
I sit up and shaking me ed, to get up on me legs they're like jelly,
Up on me back legs okay, onto me knees I'm looking for a teat,
All round me mother's big belly, om looking for something to eat.

Alright now that I've found it, a bunt and the milk flows right quick,
Me belly its full and I'm drying out, mother gives me a reassuring lick,
Off to hide and have a good rest, and mother to find some food,
The gaffer Owd Fred he lifts me leg, bull or heifer he's just being rude.

A couple of days he holds me down, in me ear puts a big tag,
Does the same again in the other, balance me ed so it doesn't sag,
Some reason he looks under me tail, rubber ring he's no need to use,
Writes my number into his little book, he's old but he's no right to abuse.

The gaffer Owd Fred he opened the gate, out onto grass to play, 
After a week I found I can run, and found some others who say,
Get ya ed down and taste the grass, big field all bright and green,
All the adults do nothing else, to fill their belly they're keen.

At three months I've got a cough, all me mates the same,
And me tail its getting dirty, only one thing we can blame,
It's worms that got into me belly, and they're hanging onto me gut,
Taking goodness out of me food, belly thinks me throats been cut.

The gaffer goes and gets the stuff, and pours it along our backs,
It soaks right into me spine, soaks right in and me belly reacts,
Loosens all the teeth, of worms and lice and all,
They fall out behind me, new pasture now is the call.

Good summer out on the grass, and autumn chill is in the air,
He's got us gathered in the pen, what he's doing I'm not aware,
All the mothers he's letting out, and now backed up a trailer,
End of the race he's pushing us in, he's nothing more than a jailer.

Big load of us all frightened and hot, unloaded into a pen,
Walking around trying to get out, shouting agen and agen,
Me voice getting soar after three days, milk I want to suck,
But this is the end I'm eating hay, mother's left us all in the muck.

So here I am, inside with my mates, were being fed every day,
All bedded up and comfortable, having silage as well as hay,
A lick of corn and a mineral block, clean water out of the mains,
It beats the water out of the brook, it only comes out of farm drains

.Its testing time, we run down the race, vet lifts up me tail,
Shoves it right up almost over me back, then he sticks in a nail,
No it wasn't it's a needle, a bottle is on the end,
Full to the top with my blood, I hope the hole will mend.

Now it looks like spring time, and the grass is growing again,
Nice to have a good run round, for that I won't complain,
Grass it's so nice and sweet, after all that dry old hay,
I'm bigger now and twelve months old, too big now to play.

Over in a distant field, I can see my mother again,
Not allowed to go and see her, she's really looks well and then,
To my dismay she's got a new calf, a brother or sister for me,
Bunting round and drinking MY milk, how terribly cruel it can be.

I've lost me rough coat from winter, and new short hair has grown,
In the sunshine it shows off real well, glossy with lick marks alone,
I spend the whole summer in deep grass, and lie in the shade of a tree,
Were growing now and nearly adult, my mother won't recognise me.

All my group were two years old, and a new young bull turned in,
It's a Hereford with a big white face, he's running us round in a spin,
I'm not able to tell you what happens next, but catches us one at a time,
One or two of us every day, just getting to know us all in our prime.

Second winter its out at grass, and not a blade to be seen,
Silage in a ring feeder, as much as we want nice and clean,
Frost and snow, and cold winds from the north, shelter under the wood,
Long woolly coat on me back, tails to the wind is the way we all stood.

Me belly its getting real big, and it's not that I've eaten a lot,
And getting swollen between me legs, soar and hard and hot,
Then I got a real bad pain, so off on me own to lay down,
A push and a push and a push again, me water bag its blown.

A real big strain and it stretches me bum, a lump I'm pushing out
A couple more and it drops right out, the relief as I give a shout,
Pick me ed up and av a look round, me very own calf just their,
Jump to me feet and give it a lick, all wet and wobbly and sticky the hair.

I'm now a mother and lickin, all over his face and his belly,
He's sit up and shaking is ed, to get up on his legs they're like jelly,
Up on his back legs okay, onto his knees and looking fa a teat,
All round my big belly, he's looking for something to eat.

Alright now that he's found it, a bunt and the milk flows right quick,
His belly it's full and he's drying out, so I give him a reassuring lick,
Off to hide and have a good rest, I go to find some food,
The gaffer Owd Fred he lifts his leg, bull or heifer he's just being rude.

A couple of days he holds him down, in his ear puts a big tag,
Does the same again in the other, balance his ed so it doesn't sag,
Some reason he looks under his tail, rubber ring he's got to use,
Writes my number into his little book, he's old but he's no right to abuse.

So it is that life goes on, and had ten calves one every year,
Got used to what the routine is, now I'm the leader it's clear,
Show the others where to go, and how to dodge a test,
And wait by the gate for a new field; shoot past Owd Fred do our best.

He gave me a name and it's Chocky, stuck with me right from a calf,
Got to know how Owd Fred ticks, meck im chases round not by half,
Now he's got a real mean trick, tasty feed in bottom of his bucket,
Can't resist I've got to follow, into the corral then we get to suck it.

I've reared a lot of good calves, for Owd Fred to fatten for beef,
Om getting tired and old, to retire it would be a relief,
But no he's keeping me on, to calve again in the shed,
And him to tell his farming tales, in his book that‘s got to be read.

Countryman   (Owd Fred)

Sacred cows make the best hamburgers.Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Low Cost Production, Milk Marketing Board 1962

Low Cost Production, Milk Marketing Board 1962

So all in all you reap what you sow, you cannot keep robbing the producer, in this case the cow.

It started when I joined a Milk Marketing Board scheme called ‘Low Cost Production’. November 1962. Much to my disgust I seemed to always be in the lower quarter of the chart / league table.

You take up on all the latest ideas, when ya young and think you can improve even on them. But as time and experience will learn you, let someone else try them out (new ideas), and if they are still good ideas a few years later that’s the time to take them up. Some expensive mistakes have been made over the years, when caution would have been the prudent thing to do.

Over stocking is one of them, it started when I joined a Milk Marketing Board scheme called ‘Low Cost Production’. The co-ordinator called every month to up date all the figures and the different margins, from cost per gallon over bought in feed, production from home grown feeds, and labour costs. These were all logged into a chart with about twenty two other participating farms with the best performing ones at the top and those with lowest margins at the bottom. Of coarse each farm/farmer was incognito and you could only identify your own farm by a code number issued by the co-ordinator.

Much to my disgust I seemed to always be in the lower quarter of the chart, and so there was great incentive to get nearer to the top. More fertilizer was bought, the cows were strip grazed rigidly with a back fence the nitrogen was applied for the re-growth, and a little later in the scheme we were encouraged to lay it all out in twenty one paddocks, one paddock a day and again fertilized after grazing. This all went on for just over four years, the cows numbers increased, stock feed potatoes and carrots were fed to supplement the winter feed, and we mixed our own dairy corn from a recommended ration compounded up from straights and costed out

It was made up of

Home grown rolled barley
Sugar beet pulp
Flaked maize
Sweetened palm kernel
Soya bean meal
Fish meal
Groundnut flakes
And Minerals
The barley was put through the roller and it dropped directly onto the barn floor,
The other ingredient were weighed up in the loft and tipped through a convenient hole in the floor. The pile was then mixed by hand with a huge shovel turning it three times
The cost worked out at £19- 7s- 6d per ton as against a propriety dairy cake of between £60 & £70 pound a ton.
All calculations were done literally by hand, it was before calculators came out and the co-ordinator added subtracted, divided, and multiplied everything on a slide rule.

Low Cost Production, Milk Marketing Board 1962

 The chart above is the original or should I say the initial one filled in by Mr Woodriffe our co-ordinator/ adviser, and it was November 1962 almost fifty years ago.

I may be wrong but going on the figures above my mixture comes out at just below £20 a ton and the Diary Cake at the top come out at over £60 a ton, not quite right me thinks. If any keen costing students or older 'pharts' like me can get it any different please let me know. I have all the invoices for the soya, fishmeal, groundnut etc. so I could check that for prices

There is an average line at the bottom that would not scan, and lined up should read
13.4 / 9.94 / 6.98 / 0.64 / 17.56 / 5.46 / 64 / 49 / 2.12 / 3.03 / 9.07 / 0.61
This is the matching resultant chart that we got back at the end of the month, that is my line third line from the bottom of the table, code /159. Margin per gallon 9.85, and 39 in herd, 35 in milk.

This was the only time I managed to top my group April 1964 see code /159. We had turned the cows out onto some early grass; all the cows were in milk. It was only through the summer months that I could compete on the league table. Eventually I found out that some of the top ones in the winter had larger acreages of stubbles and sugar beet fields to range over and young stock away on another area of land, giving them an unfair advantage over me stuck tightly on 96 acres with quite a few young stock and follower.
By the report from the MMB and the farming press it was a great success, for me we raised our output and margins, but ended up with a whole herd of very thin cows, some almost skeletons. Another aspect was to calve the heifers down at two years old, some of which had not attained the required growth to reach a reasonable lactation.

The calving index was another thing that was important in these calculations, our was around 370 day calving when we started, and as the cows got into a lower and lower state so this rose to around the 400day mark.

So all in all you reap what you sow, you cannot keep robbing the producer, in this case the cow, and occasionally in life its better to back off a little, work under a bit less pressure, the cows and yourself are a lot fitter, you may not have made your fortune, there is always someone in life who does thing better than you ( or claim to), and that has never changed all my life.

The Cow Chain

At one time cows were all tied up, in stalls to milk and feed,
Each one knew its own place, not much room indeed,
When young they didn’t like it, but soon learned where to go,
Twice every day it was for them, walking too and fro.

Out to daytime pastures, to distant fields to graze,
Back again for milking on long fine summer days,
Walk into their own shed, and finding their own stall,
Standing there to be chained, got to chain them all.

Each stall holds a pair of cows, left and right they learn,
Once they know their own side, one word n’ they discern,
“Come over” spoken to them , they know your coming through,
The pair will part, n’ chain them up, n’ stand their cud to chew.

A scoop of corn while milking, then wait till milked the lot,
Loosed off the chains they wander, out to pasture we allot,
Clean the sheds and clean the stalls, till milking comes again,
For to tie them up you always need, good strong shiny chain.

Countryman (Owd Fred)

Knowledge is the only instrument of production that is not subject to diminishing returns.John Maurice Clarke. Economist

Sunday, 10 February 2013

We had a cow and she's real mad

We had a cow and she's real mad

But only when we are trying to round them up, all the rest of the time out grazing with the other cows she is quite normal. If there is more than one person in the field she becomes aware she starts to get alerted, and if by chance we start to drive the herd towards the gate, her head goes up and ears pricked forward, and as the whole herd approach the exit of the field with her in the middle of the bunch, suddenly she charges out of the group in the opposite direction dodging any attempts' for us to stop her.

It's a habit she had got into and we could not even begin to try to calm her down, or break her of this syndrome. The last time we actually got her into the coral with the other cows was when we rounded them up to worm the calves. On that occasion we let the herd into a small field at the end of the lane, and left them in for twenty four hours. By that time they were all hungry and ready to be moved.
To put you in the picture, the coral is at the farm end of the lane, a number of fields with gates open into the lane, and at the far end, the end gate opens into the corner of a small field making it handy to walk the cattle down to the coral.
On this occasion with them being hungry for more grass, we opened the gate and the herd moved naturally toward that corner, including the wild one. As I said she takes no notice as long as we stay on the tractor, she thinks we are just counting them as I do every morning. They all gradually walked into the lane grazing and pulling at the grass down the hedge banks, she was the only one standing confused in the gateway, first looking down the lane then back across the field to us in the tractor.
It's like being in a hide, and well back across the field we waited, then finally she made her mind up to run and catch up with the others. When we followed she had caught up and mingled and was successfully got into the coral.
The time is fast approaching when the claves need to be weaned and the whole lot gathered again, but what worries me most is when we have to have them all in for testing, and have got to get them all in on that particular day and again three days later to read the results. Another problem as well is she has lost both her ear tags, I know the number, but just the thought on clamping her in the head yolk in the crush, and inserting two ear tags, if they hold still you can often get them into the same hole in the ear, but most likely we will have to punch them in as well as we can, more pain and suffering. Where DO we get her confidence back from?.

We do have a good leader of the herd,

The Cows Have Got a Leader
The cows have got a leader, and she watches all the while,
She knows exactly what ya doing, sometimes make you smile,
Only got to touch the gate latch, and up will go her head,
And walk towards the gateway, without a word being said.

Go to count them every morning, and check that they're all okay,
They think they want a new field, and walk off all that way,
Oblige them at your peril, as they mob you round the gate,
The fencings got to be strong, if you've got to make them wait.

If more than one walks in the field, leader walks the other way,
Takes the whole lot with her, she must know its testing day,
Got to walk round whole dam field, head them to the gate,
Seems that they have forgotten, and vet's is here by eight.

Leader walking off right way, the others following her lead,
Off towards the gateway, but they're gathering speed,
All stop short of going through, and start to circle round,
A young one makes a break for freedom, loose the lot confound.

A bucket with a bit of corn, the leaders up for that,
Always first one at the trough, and give her a little pat,
She follows where you walking, out off out down the lane,
Other think they're missing out, and follow once again.

So cherish your old leader, she can save you a lot of time,
Show the young cows where to go, while she's in her prime,
Miss her when she finally goes, to meet her maker's bullet,
End up as tough old leather boot's, n' fill a of pack of suet.
Owd Fred (Countryman)

The task of a leader is to get his people (in this case cows) from where they are to where they have not been.Henry Kissinger ( 1923- )

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Persistent Escapee (cow)

The Persistent Escapee (cow)

I remember father counting, cattle each and every day,
He counts and looks at every one, to see they're all OK.

A cow that persistently gets out, gets better at it, she learns to jump or hop over slack wire, learns to push rails down and push at the legs of electric fence posts, and push through weak places in hedges. Bulls soon learn to lift gates off there hinges or as a neighbour's bull has done he will break wooden gates in two.

It's a matter of not letting them get into the habit of getting out, "the grass is always greener etc". A secure fence, with barbed wire pulled up tight, barbed wire put up slack looking like a washing line is no good.
Cattle are a herd animal and they will all follow a leader, and if it's the leader that is that persistent one that is always getting out your in trouble. They all have there own personality and it shows when studied, particularly when gathered and handled.

They range from the one that steps forward to have its shoulder scratched to the one that will charge at you when cornered, and as for the newly calved cow even the most placid cow can turn nasty and charge. Their behaviour often follows in families, and how the mother behaves is passed down to the calf at a very young age, almost a perception or body language is read by the calf from birth, and if it's the bull that has a bad attitude being handled or driven, he too will influence the attitude of the herd.

There is often the one with the wicked eye, and the one that lifts her head up and pricks her ears at the first sign of strange movement in the field. Some will venture forward and investigate to see what's going on, the others follow by herd nature, and some will disappear away behind the herd or into a hollow where they cannot be seen.

It only takes one cow to give out a Bellow rather than a Moo, and the whole herd will go running to investigate what's going on. It some times happens when assisting a calving, when the cow gives one last big push and a bellow at the same time, then is a good time to retreat rapidly.
Back to the one that gets out, I solved the problem by selling her, she would get out into the farm track and graze down the hedge banks, then instead of getting back the way she had come, she would walk down to a small group of ten houses at the end of the track, walk into the gardens and round to the back (all open plan, silly idea) and hop over their back fence into her field.
When this had gone on for quite a few months the folk in the houses were getting very angry, every foot print sank deep into the lawns, the evidence was there, the row of peas were being grazed and dung pats left in exchange. The gardens are a foot or so above field level and while the fence was a sensible height from the field, from the gardens it was only knee height to the cow.

Some of the gardens had wooden panel fences with my barbed wire fence on the field side others are fancy post and rail or chain link wire mesh, all were pitched at a height that the occupants could see out across the fields. At this point I must say it nearly always happened during the night, and when they rang me to complain and I went to investigate only the foot prints were there. I finished up putting a new gate on the end of the lane; the cow then walked through the lane side hedge into the first house garden a six foot tall beech hedge and continued with the same route back to the field.
Fortunately she was the only one doing it, and she was so persistent that the only option was to sell her. She was a young well built cow only had three calves and I though it would be a good idea if she gave someone else a bit of "entertainment", NIMBY (not in my back yard).

The cows are Charolais Angus Simmental crosses put to a Hereford bull, calves are April born

I Remember Father's Cattle
In the mid 1950's vets were recommending worming young stock with a new product called phenothiazine. This was a green powder and had to be mixed with water and a pint or so was pour down their throats.(drenched)

I remember father counting, cattle each and every day,
He counts and looks at every one, to see they're all OK,
Now one day he sees's one cough, and then it was another.
If we don't do something quickly, we'll be in a bit of bother.

So off down he goes to get, some wormer in a rush,
And back he comes and reads the label, says get them in a crush,
No crush have we, but four strong lads, we'll get them in a stable,
Mix water and green powder in a bucket, put it on the table.

Four long neck bottles we did find, for dosing all the cattle,
Phenothiozine, it's called, and keep it stirred or it will settle,
The pop had gone as we made sure; we loved the fizzy taste,
One pint and half was dose that's needed, over dose was waste.

Pint ladle and a funnel now, into the bottled it was measured,
Us lads went in among the stock, as tight a they could be,
The bottles we did pass to one, who had ones chin held high,
Uptip the med-sin to back of throat, do not look down or ni.

The cow that coughs, coughs both ends, and chuck it back they try,
Its just a waste as we were told, but hits you in the eye,
Soon learn to leave it quickly, as soon as we could shift,
As dosing cattle get there own back, now who's being thrift.

We often wondered why we lads, had grown so big and strong,
When other lads around us, were only lean and long,
Put it down to fresh air, and read farmers weekly magazine,
But all the time it wasn't, twas Phenothiazine.


Many of us have heard (herd) opportunity knocking at our door (garden), but by the time we unhooked the chain, pushed back the bolt, turned two locks, and shut off the burglar alarm, it was gone ( the cow).
Author unknown