Thursday, 6 November 2008
Farming this week.
It is almost time for the ewes to be put to the ram for April lambing. The Swaledale ewes roam on the tops between Wensleydale and Swaledale and become hefted (they know their own territory and stick to it, and pass this knowledge on to their offspring). So the rams are being brought up to tip top condition ready for the fray! We will eventually over-winter these breeding ewes (maybe next year), so we went over to have a look at the rams. They are magnificent creatures with fantastic horns. Sometimes these horns press so near to their faces that they have to be cut away. A dozen or so of them were indoors getting special rations and having chiropody (their feet need to be in pristine condition). Some of them were penned individually like the one in the photograph and most had carpet draped over the hurdles separating them, to stop them fighting through the bars! Some of the rams have cost thousands of pounds so they need to do the job properly.
At home the first of the dry cows have come into winter housing. We no longer have dairy cows ourselves but our neighbouring farmer and friend has a large herd of Holstein cows and we help with the overwintering. The dairy herd is already indoors and for the dry cows to stay out the ground has to be pretty dry, otherwise they have such foot problems. This year has been so very wet.
The rainfall figures for the last four months make soggy reading:-
July 123mm (5 inches); August 95mm (4 inches); September 166 mm (over 6 inches); October 84mm (over 3 inches) - so you can imagine, our fields are absolutely sodden, and the grass is pretty devoid of nutrients.
So the first five dry cows came in on Monday. They came into their winter home, looked around, chose a space and lay down - all within five minutes. Now they are in residence. Soon some in-calf heifers will join them (all five of the cows are in-calf). When they arrive there will be a bit of a fuss and a bit of jostling for superiority, but they'll soon settle.
I love it when the loose housing is full for winter. We keep our car in a garage right next to this and every time I go to get the car out they come to see what is happening - cows are such curious creatures.
When we had dairy cows they were Friesians - but these are Holsteins. They are what I would call raw boned - much more bony than Friesians, although when I said to their owner that they were bony he was quite hurt. Like all farmers he loves his cows and considers them part of his family.
Today the farmer and I have been to get our flu jabs and have our blood pressure taken - all on a conveyor-belt action; we were in and out of the surgery in ten minutes.