Last week we brought in all the cows and calves so that we could get as we would say three ‘cow jobs’ done….
Cow Job 1 = Scanning
Cow Job 2 = Dividing the herd into two groups for the winter
Cow Job 3 = Start the weaning process
First job was scanning for pregnancy to see how many cows were in calf and how many calves we can be expecting in the spring. Chris travels down to the farm from North Cornwall to scan the cows for us. He does this by conducting an ultrasound examination on each cow and yes it involves him being elbow deep!
Well to say our beefy boys ‘Logic and Ned’ did a good job would be an understatement…. they had a 100% strike rate!! All 84 cows were in calf. This is almost unheard of and is such a brilliant indicator of over all herd health and how Will’s hardwork and endless care pays off. Logic who we absolutely adore would be considered an older bull as he is now 7. It takes a lot of careful management of the grazing to keep him fit and sound while he is working. Our other bull Ned is much younger and is now in fact looking for a new home as his daughters will enter the herd next breeding season.
Next we divided the cows and calves into two groups. One group we put back in the field (we choose the most sheltered fields for them). They will stay out in the fields until after Christmas when their shed will be turned around from poultry house to cattle shed. We will be feeding them bales of our homegrown silage that we made back in the summer.
The other group began the weaning process. Traditionally this would mean simply dividing up the cows from the calves and putting each group into separate sheds. This is an abrupt change and causes high levels of stress to calves. This stress can contribute to reduced feed and water intake, which results in poor nutrition. The added stress of weaning can also depress the immune system which makes them more susceptible to illness.
We prefer to do things a bit slower by using the two step ‘no stress’ method. We use nose flaps which are gently popped in the calves noses, these will stop the calves being able to drink from Mum but they can still be close to her. After 5 days we bring everyone in and divide the cows and calves. The nose flaps are removed and the calves are moved to one side of the shed and the cows the other. We find this makes the process so much less stressful and somewhat reduces the ensuing noise!
It doesn’t seem two minutes since we were turning out all the cattle in to the fields, now they are headed in for the winter. After the dreadful rain and wind over the past few weeks they will be glad to come in and be cosy! Even if our shorthorn cattle are designed to be out on the Northumberland moors which is where the breed originates.