Tag Archives: afterbirth

Young ladies of uncertain temperament.

image

When you work your way down the list of jobs you have to do on a busy dairy farm, you’ll notice that one that somehow has to get fitted in is ‘looking dairy heifers.’ As soon as there is grass and the heifers are old enough, I always tried to get them outside onto it. I could still give them some supplementary feed but I always felt they did so much better outside, and also were far less work. Checking to see how they are is a job that I have always enjoyed, if only because it gave you an excuse to go for a walk with the dog in the countryside.

Also, I always felt that it was an important job. The dairy heifers are going to grow up to be the ladies who make up your milking herd. So it’s important that they know you and are comfortable with you wandering about. In their eyes, you ought to be ‘the nice guy.’ So appearing every morning with some supplementary feed is probably a good start down this road.

Given that dairy heifers are almost inevitably bucket reared as calves, they start off thinking that people are potentially a ‘good thing.’ You bring them their meals, how can they not approve of you?

Obviously, from their point of view, you blot your copybook by being the one who gives them any vaccinations, worms them and suchlike. But ideally we can keep it constructive by being the one who also appears with feed.

The idea is that by the time they join the dairy herd, they regard you in a positive manner and are pretty relaxed about it all when they go through the milking parlour for the first time. So I never felt time spent with them was wasted. Yes there were times I was really needed elsewhere but still.

As they grow older heifers will go through stages. When very young they can sometimes just run for the sheer joy of running. We once turned some young heifers out onto grass for the first time and one of them just ran across the field, turned round and hurtled back at speed. At some point it her mad career she realised she has heading for a very tall hedge. This did not deter her. In fact she accelerated and then leapt.

Between ourselves I feel she was more than a little optimistic. The hedge at this point was a core of sycamore but heavily infested with brambles. So I want you to visualise her hurtling herself at a nine foot high mat of brambles. Now she’s wearing a good leather jacket, brambles aren’t too much of a problem per se. It’s just the height. Having watched them moving I have no doubt a deer could have taken it. But for a small heifer who doesn’t stand waist height I feel it was a step to far. Still she tried. She hit the hedge about six feet up.

Biology had done its part, physics now took over. We are in the world of conservation of momentum. Her momentum was transferred, as you would expect, to the hedge. Now the bottom of the hedge is pretty solidly grounded. It isn’t going to move. But the top stands proud and free and under her impact the hedge (or vertical mat of brambles) swayed. It went over so far that at one point I thought it was going to tip her off into the next field before it swayed back. It teetered, but didn’t quite. Then it swayed back and dumped the heifer somewhat unceremoniously on the ground, back in the field she started from. She stood up, shook herself a bit, looked round to see if anybody was laughing at her, and wandered off at a more sedate speed to see if this green stuff she was surrounded by was worth a nibble.

As they grow older they become a little more sedate. But just as you’ll find small children go through a stage where they love being ‘scared’ and run about screaming excitedly, dairy heifers can also pass through this stage.

When I feed one batch, they’ll often cluster around Sal rather than following me with the bucket. To a certain extent, this is Sal’s fault. She is in the habit of wandering through the calf pens to see if there’s anything worth eating. So many a young calf’s first exposure to creatures other than Mum, is Sal wandering through to see if there’s any afterbirth lying about. As they get older she quite likes the flavour of the feed they get and she’ll often help herself to stuff they’ve dropped. So they’re used to seeing her and she’s used to being sniffed by them.

So I’ll walk into the field, the heifers will ignore me and cluster round Sal, and I’ll stand there with their feed wondering at what point they’ll notice me. So I whistle Sal who trots out from in the middle of the group. And at this point the heifers will all be excitedly scared, run away in different directions, sometimes bucking and kicking until they remember that I’ve got the bucket. Then, worried that one of the others will get there first and snaffle the lot, they all run towards me, sometimes close to treading Sal underfoot in their haste to be first.

There again, every so often Sal will intervene. This morning I was putting the feed out for them and one ignored it and walked across to sniff Sal. Sal turned and cut across it and made as if to snap her teeth at it. The heifer then jumped four feet sideways in mock alarm but before it could do anything even more exciting realised its nose was six inches from the feed I’d just put down. It immediately set lesser matters from mind and started eating.

I left them to it, but as I left I held the empty bucket in front of me. That was to ensure that they couldn’t see it. Because with heifers, if they cannot see it, it isn’t there. If you walk away holding the bucket so that they can see it, every so often one has the bright idea that there could be more feed left in the bucket. So that one will chase after you to get the extra feed it assumes you’re hiding. If you’re unlucky at this point the others, up until then happily eating, will set off after their colleague, assuming it knows something they don’t. So it’s easier just to make sure they cannot see the bucket.

I don’t know about you but I’ve met people like that as well.

♥♥♥♥

There again you could discuss it with Sal

Another collection of anecdotes drawn from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. As usual Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep get fair coverage, but it’s mixed with family history and the joys of living along a single track road.

 

As a reviewer commented, “Excellent follow up to his first collection of bloggage – Sometimes I Sits and Thinks – this is another collection of gentle reflections on life on a small sheep farm in Cumbria. This could so easily be a rant about inconsiderate drivers on country lanes and an incessant moaning about the financial uncertainties of life on a farm. Instead, despite the rain, this is full of wise asides on modern living that will leave you feeling better about the world. Think Zen and the Art of Sheep Management (except he’s clearly CofE…) Highly recommended, and worth several times the asking price!”

Dry grass and cats running in flip flops.

DIGITAL CAMERA

People struggle to understand why I can get so interested in grass. After all it’s green and normally wet. But really, my life has been spent creating optimum conditions for grass. That way I had enough to feed to cattle or sheep, and somehow we made a living.

In a perfect world, when making silage, you’d move the grass at exactly the right stage at exactly the right time. (So ideally you mow the grass in the evening. This is because the grass produces sugars during the day, but during the night moves them down to the roots. So if you mow the same field in the morning, the leaves, the bit you harvest, will contain less sugar than if you mow it twelve hours later (or earlier.) As an aside that probably means to keep your lawn strong and healthy you should mow it first thing in the morning as soon as the dew is off it.

But back to silage. You must remember that the ‘D’ value of grass is also important. D value is the percentage of digestible organic matter in the dry matter. Obviously you measure it in the dry matter, because that which isn’t dry matter is water, and whilst necessary, there’s damn all feed value in it and it can fluctuate wildly anyway.

Older grass will be below 60%, young leafy grasses can be over 70%. So picking a time to silage is a case of balancing quality and quantity. Go too early and you’ll have excellent silage but not enough. Go too late you’ll have plenty of belly filler but they’ll not milk off it.

At the moment things have got even more complicated in that we had a long dry spell. Normally, the advantage of second cut silage is that as the grass was all mown on the same day in May, it starts again and is a very even crop for second cut. But because of the dry spell, in the same field you have patches where the soil contains more sand. The grass there suffered from the drought and some even went to seed (which from the D value point of view means it is low.) But with the rain those areas are greening up and putting out new shoots. Similarly other parts of the field with soils that held more water were hit less. So an appropriate date for mowing one part of the field is too late for some of the field and too early for other bits. But in agriculture, we’re used to trying to find the least worst option.

 

On an entirely different front, Sal and Billy are still working on their relationship. We had a cow calve and Sal discovered the afterbirth. Border Collies have simple tastes. Afterbirth is a welcome breakfast snack. So she was quietly helping herself to it. Billy appeared on the scene. He remains fascinated by Sal, and will regularly jog across to see what she’s up to. He watched her eat with interest but showed no sign of wanting to join it. Anyway he then walked under her, rubbing his back on her tummy. I get the feeling that this wasn’t something Sal had been expecting with her breakfast and she leapt to one side, but kept a good hold of breakfast.

It’s interesting watching the two animals run. If I shout Sal, when she runs it is the run of an animal that is determined to cover the ground. She’s got a fair turn of speed and when going flat out, she’s this sleek streamlined missile, hurtling along. If Billy runs after her the effect is entirely different. Somehow he runs as if he’s wearing flip flops and is trying not to lose them.

And talking about waiting for the right moment, it looks as if there might be a change in the guidelines over social distancing.

My suspicion is that we will be advised to go to the World Health Organisation recommendation of one meter rather than our current one of two meters. When you think about it, people will actually work happily at one meter, it’s about what we think of as our personal space.

Now towards the start of the outbreak, YouGov started a ‘chat’ which they email to people every couple of days. I suppose it’s a way of getting a feel for how people are feeling.

 

Yesterday two of the questions were:-

 

Do you think levels of frustration and anger in the population are higher or lower than usual?

Results so far…

Much higher – 50%

A little higher – 44%

None of these – 4%

A little lower – 2%

Much lower – 1%

 

Do you think over the next month feelings of frustration will…?

Latest results…

Increase – 70%

Decrease – 18%

Neither – 13%

 

I must admit I wouldn’t disagree with those findings. A lot of people are going quietly out of their minds, stuck at home with only the BBC and Social Media.

But then there were these questions as well.

 

 

For the time being, do you think we continue to need rules on social distancing?

Latest results…

Yes – 81%

No – 13%

Not sure – 7%

 

And should those rules require us to stay 1m apart or 2m?

Latest results…

 

2m apart – 63%

1m apart – 29%

No need at all – 6%

More – 2%

 

I’m now the one who does the shopping, and I’ve noticed that in our local Tesco people vary a lot. You’ll get those who will not go within six feet of somebody else under pretty much any circumstances. Some of them are even wearing masks (but still less than 5%).

Then you get those wave you past if they’re looking for something in particular and aren’t going to move. I fall firmly into that category.

But it’s the staff that I’ve watched most. Like me, they’ve been working throughout the entire pandemic. To be fair to Tesco, they’ve got the arrows on the floor, screens up for the check-out staff and everything is done properly. But when I go in about 8am, there are a lot of staff out restacking shelves and moving stuff about. Their behaviour has reverted to normal, they don’t get in each other’s ‘personal space’ but otherwise if you talk to them, they’ll stand about three or four feet away, just like normal people always did.

My suspicion is that we’re very much in two worlds. Those who’re out there and who have been working through it have long adapted and are no longer worried about things. There are bigger risks. Then we have those who’re stuck at home. I still know people who haven’t been past the garden gate and don’t particularly want to. But then if you’re somebody on a guaranteed income (government paid salary and you’re at home shielding a vulnerable relative) why on earth would you push for change?

As it is, looking at the epidemic, https://unherd.com/2020/06/karl-friston-up-to-80-not-even-susceptible-to-covid-19/ is interesting and does hang together nicely.

 

He comments that the Ferguson/Imperial College model may be correct, it’s just he didn’t allow for a large proportion of the population being naturally resistant to the virus.
Indeed the current outbreak in China fits in with his model. It isn’t a ‘second peak’, it’s just that China is so large that the lockdown managed to prevent spread to distant areas. But eventually the virus gets there and you have another peak in what is effectively a new naïve population.

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know?

More tales from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England, with sheep, Border Collies, cattle, and many other interesting individuals. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is just one of those things.

 

As a reviewer commented, “Like the other two books in this series, Jim Webster gives us a perspective of farm life we may not have appreciated. Some of the facts given will come as a shock to non-farming readers, but they do need to be read. Having said that, there are plenty of humorous anecdotes to make the book an enjoyable read.”