The Winds of Change.

It’s been a long time since I chanced this way and much has happened on the journey.

 I got “the Girls” in to help with the garden. They came in the form of two Gloucester Old Spot weaners. They moved onto the veg patch and dug and weeded out all the nettle roots, whilst they ate all the old veg and kitchen peelings and no small amount of pig food. Their cosy house was of small straw bales all put together with a tin roof , they snuggled down every night after their supper and slept late every morning. They sunbathed and wallowed and chomped and scratched and greeted anyone walking down the path with a grunt and a big pink nose snuffling over the fence. They were a joy to watch and talk with. Then when the work was finished and they found relief from their growing discontent by digging up the fence and pulling down their house and digging their strawy wall into the soil, they were big enough to make the 4 mile journey to the local butcher. A freezer of wonderfully tasty pork was their parting gift.

Chloe has grown to be a strapping girl however it seems her unborn twin was not as thought, a sister but a brother whose foetal blood infused enough male hormones into Chloe that her reproductive organs did not join up fully, so they are all there but incomplete. The result is that there will be no calves to stimulate a milk supply or to encourage her to become protective. She is the largest of the bovines yet she gets bullied by both the dexters, one of whom is not yet fully grown.

Another lambing season has come and gone and the next has begun just a few short weeks ago, along with the first flush of goat kids.

 The goatherd moved away from the family home to a village a couple of miles away. She comes back daily as work allows to do her goats, with me filling in the empty job slots. The shepherd moved from the local town to the next village and now walks over daily, appearing unannounced often with arms full of firewood and checking on sheep as she comes to start her daily tasks.

 Last summer was dominated by illness and hospital visits to a loved one who, despite our best endevours, died, leaving us shocked and numb. We held a celebration of his life, in the garden with family and friends. We blew bubbles at his eulogy which was read by one of his best friends.  We took him in his woollen coffin in a borrowed astra van, to be buried  in a corner of a small local graveyard surrounded by trees. There were nearly 50 of us in all, some staying all day and others calling in or leaving, as busy times allowed. Everyone bought food and drink to share and we ended the day, after sunset, with fireworks and chinese lanterns at a place where he loved to sit and watch the view. We toasted him with sparkling wine and champagne and made it a day he would have loved.

I hope he did.

I have spent the autumn and winter, such as it has been so far, drying apple rings, brewing wine, making jams, baking bread and collecting brushwood to feed the stoves in mine and the shepherds homes. My fleeces all got left out to perish in the sun and rain so no spinning or felting. We have had a bit of snow but winter has been really mild and so far, spring has begun early.

 Before our lives were turned upside down, I went to visit my Mother. Whilst I was there, I spent time with my Sister who I have been in scant contact with for many years. We enjoyed walks on the beach, drives on the moor and evenings by the fireside. When I left to come home, she sent me with a top bar beehive. I was so pleased as I have wanted one for ages and believe them to be more bee friendly and the intended husbandry to complete the concept has to be better for the bees. Little did I know that far from seeking a swarm or nucleus from a local beekeeper, a swarm of bees would come to us. I love having them here and hope they will expand to more hives as time passes. They come out in force on warm days, of which there are increasing numbers and carry pollen of various colours back home.

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Published in: on Thursday March 15th, 2012 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Baby arrives

Her name is Chloe and she is just perfect.

She is Friesian of New Zealand strain, and I hope she will be the family housecow, in a few years. Her family took her in when she was found wandering in a field, very tiny and not due for another two months. Her mum had aborted her because her twin had died. As twins were not expected, no-one realised until her mum began to be very ill, the dead calf was delivered but too late for her mum who succumbed to infection. The farm hand took Chloe home and gave her every chance which Chloe grabbed with both hands. Now at two months, at the time she was due to make her entry into the world, Chloe has outgrown her garden and was in need of someone to carry on the care so lovingly lavished upon her. Now we are her family and feel honoured to have the opportunity to continue the task.

 Now when I bought the Dexters I was quite desperate to have cattle again, they are very sweet and appealing, but I really was looking for a dairy calf to bring up and have an exceptionally well handled beast who I can do anything with, just like the last cows.

 Now I have the best of both worlds, a dairy calf , who will live out, needing a modest amount of hard feed give enough milk for a calf and all we can use, and more, and a hardy robust breed which will rear fantastic beef  from grass and forage, with enough milk for me to steal for the kitchen, or to rear a second calf.

 Good things come to those who wait and life right now is mostly good.

 

Published in: on Friday December 18th, 2009 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just the way that it should be?

Or should that be, is my life just SLIGHTLY ODD?

A near neighbour has raised a hatch of chicks and now,  at the end of summer they bought the males round for me to turn into dinner. They arrived in a plastic feed sack in the boot of a car so they quickly needed to be dealt with. The quickest thing to do was to put them in an empty rabbit hutch with some food and water, then decide when I have enough time to kill and pluck them, a job which always takes me ages.

 A couple of days later they were still waiting and eating and one morning, I asked one of the resident “outlaws” to let them out. Having a senior moment, or should I say, rather a lot of them, is rather common for me and what I meant to say was to give them food and water. So out they came, now what? Well “what”, came at bedtime when they were nowhere to be seen. Damn, I bet they have got out or been caught by a fox. The next morning they were wandering around, eating veg from the garden and generably being where they shouldn’t. Bedtime again, none present or correct, but the next day there they were as bold as brass, this time one was baiting one of the breeding cockralls who was defending his pen of hens.

 This went on for a few days until one evening I thought to ask if anyone knew where they went to bed. The answer was a delight to my ears, they roost in the hawthorn tree. I have always loved the idea of hens which roost in trees. It seems so natural and easy, but I always clip wings to keep tabs on all poultry, then I decide where they will sleep, what time they get let out and all the other controlling things we do to “look after” our pets. Now the boys have introduced a small flock of home bred pullets to their version of night life. Lively it is too, they often crow at intervals from about 11.38pm until around 4am when there is a distinctive wing clap and soon after the crowing moves around. With no housing there is no build up of lice or mites, they seem safe from foxes, whilst roosting anyway and they must get a primeval satisfaction from being on branches which are constantly on the move. The downsides are that they can get over the wall into next doors garden, they are vulnerable when they are at ground level from before dawn and I do need to eat them before they spend the winter getting tough and eating their way through precious feed.

 The hawthorn tree is a great love of mine, I can see it in the mirror from my bed. I watch the blackbird eating the berries whilst I sit in bed in the morning and the outside world is monochrome. I love the shape of it and I love the way it looks like a picture which changes according to the light, the weather and the activity of the time. A stratigically placed mirror can open up a whole new world.

I took one of the animals to my vet in a local market town. I take anything which will fit in my car rather than pay the call out fees and in the past have had animals at all stages of life from birth to death, carried in the back of my car or van, but the things which don’t fit are cows, ponies and donkeys. So after my consultation I returned to the waiting room for some injections to be dispensed. The Vets surgery is an old shop and the reception and waiting room is the shop itself, the window opaqued to provide some privacy but one can see out quite clearly and waiting outside with a middle aged lady was a  small horse. As the Vet finished writing the directions on my syringes the receptionist told him that George had come for his booster for Tetnus and Equine flu. I asked the receptionist if this is an unusual occurance and fortunately it is rather commonplace. Why does this soothe my equalibrium so?

Now there is no reason why this should be an odd phenomenon but how often do you see a horse waiting in the high street for his appointment at the vet?

Published in: on Wednesday November 11th, 2009 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

The mini moos

 Life is very exciting at the moment.

I managed to track down a friend from long ago, who used to breed dexters and had a few jerseys there who belonged to a friend of his.

 I was hoping he would know a jersey breeder who might sell me a calf.  He did know someone who had some in calf heifers but before I got around to ringing the man my friend phoned to say they had all been sold, however he had a nice heifer that might suit me and he could put her to a bull and keep her to check that she did not “return” at her next season. We agreed a price and he would sort me a steer to keep her company until after she calves next May. It then became a waiting game, counting down the days until she was ready to come to live here. A few days before my imposed 60 day closure was due to come to an end, I had a letter from Deathra to say that the cow number UK****** *******had grown positive samples for TB. This confirmed that she was a reactor.

 Here we go again, just the one cow?  I rang to speak to the person named on the letter to ask about the results of the other cow, only to be told that the results were not due to be read until later that day FOR THE FIRST COW and the  samples from the other cow would not be read until a few days later. He could not answer how I had received the results by post before the results were read. Predictibly the second set of samples were positive too. Now why was that not a surprise?

 Anyway moving on, Holly arrived with her friend the steer and a short time spent catching up on the many years of life since we last met whilst we watched the two being overwhelmed by the amount of grass for them to tackle. So much in fact that they did not attempt the tour of the boundries which is usual for cattle when they find themselves somewhere new to them. We admired the views and the cows and I have to say that the previous night I began to panic a bit as I realised that I had in fact bought my new cow unseen and what if she was really ugly or nasty in some way. Did I really want a heifer so old and of a different breed when I had actually decided that what I needed was a Jersy calf.

I need not have worried though, they are both really pretty, a bit timid but a winter of regular visits and feeding will sort that out. She has to have a different name as we have a dog named Holly so she is Tulip and he is Sid, which suits him, I think anyway. By next winter he will be in my freezer and we will be playing in the dairy again. Heifer calf please Tulip. Did I say that he has horns that are useful for a variety of things?

 So now the TB nosode is whisked into the water regularly to hopefully give an immunity to my new cattle and protect them and us from the horrors of the last few months. My grazing is slowly coming back under control and life includes the trips to and from the field on the edge of the village,  sitting watching the cattle and looking  down into the valley and beyond the river into another land.

Published in: on Tuesday October 6th, 2009 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

TB? Not TB? Not sure if we will ever know the truth

Well Tuesday was awful and left us all feeling numb. The cows were being a bit of a pain to load and the black cow refused to have her leading rein on. Not in the usual way where she sees dinner time as a definate touch free time and any attempts to clip the rein on are shrugged off, but if you wait until she has finished, she has an urgent need to do a bit of “gardening” and munch her way around being just in front of you and just too quick with her head to do it then. She will be driven but if I want to tie her up I don’t want to drive her back to her field.

 No, this time she was all too wary as there were lots of people around and the trailer was a good enough reason to play up.

 After loading them, as I stood back to watch the  trailer being manovered out of the driveway, I was feeling really desperate to stop what was happening but had a camera aimed close up on my face to record every emotion and felt that I really could not break down. I could not even speak as I would cry.

 So as the trailer headed up the road I got into my car and headed down the road. I would meet them at the slaughterhouse.

I wanted to make sure the girls were not frightened and to make their final minutes as calm and reassured as I could. It really was the last thing I could do for them as I had been told I would not be allowed to see them killed and if I had been able to they would be unlikely to recognise me gowned and hatted and from a distance.

 I arrived a fair while before they did and being of enquiring mind, I had begun to suspect they had been carted off elsewhere. Finally they did arrive and the two men who had been so patient and gentle when they loaded the girls, were just as kind at this end. First of all, in lairage where the animals are penned after off loading there was a hereford bull who was not going to be co-operative and spent a long time being driven along a passageway, only to emerge backwards after the lairage men who flew back into the pen several times followed by the bull. Eventually he was chivvied into the stunning area and it was time for my girls to come out of the trailer. They were very nosy and took very little notice of me or the hauliers. They were very inquisitive and all of these new smells and noises needed to be investigated. They were shut in for a short time and the older of the hauliers spent time telling me how sad the TB situation is and how many animals he transports each week. He asked me if I was going to give up on cows and when I told him I was going to try to restock as soon as I could and had a field which was not near where these girls had lived and I would try to keep any new stock in there as the risk further contact with the disease was not likely. He then started asking what I wanted and offering to look out for a new heifer for me as soon as I am ready.  He then went on his way and I wandered in to be with the cows. He came back to see how I was and whilst I was talking the cows were driven away to be stunned. I just caught a glimpse of them walking away, no noise no fuss and I might so easily have missed them go. They were as I hoped,  calm and relaxed, to the end.

 The next morning the phone rang at 7.45 am, it was the haulier to say the farm he had suggested I contact about a heifer had been put on a standstill. They had got reactors to their TB test. He was still going to help me get another cow and would make sure I would be back getting my own milk soon.

 Some people are so lovely and they come into my life when I don’t expect them. In fact everyone I have come face to face with over the TB situation has been sympathetic and as helpful as they can be.

 On Thursday I rang the DEATHRA person I was meant to be getting the initial results from and in her broken English she told me 4 times that the PM  tests weren’t done.  What did thatmean? Were they not checked or were they just in the food chain already?

I did check that they were going to be done which she said they would be and to ring back after 4pm. She also said that there was only paperwork for one cow. I took this to mean she was again using less than fluent English. I rang back at 4.10pm and the phone rang until it was cut off,  about 5 times.

 This morning I left the call until 9.20am to give her time to go through any paperwork  only to be told the results weren’t done but with several apologies she said she would chase up the samples.

 Nearly an hour later she rang back and said she was very sorry but the paperwork had gone missing, I would not know anything for a while. I asked when I would get the results she said she did not know, that she had paperwork for one cow and it said the samples had not been taken.

 I was devastated and told her I really must know. I had been wiped out by TB and I had to know if the cows had got it or not. I was asked how many other cattle I had and when I said again that my only two cows had been wiped out and they were my only cows, I had no cows left. The reply was that I didn’t need to worry about it then as I didn’t have other cattle who could be at risk.

My reply telling her how callous her statement was and explaining why it was important that I knew if my only two cows had contracted TB, resulted in her giving the phone to another person in the office. He was much more understanding It seemed the reactor tag numbers had not been written on the paperwork and there was only paperwork for one cow. I gave him the tag numbers he needed and the individual tag for each cow and which went with which cow. He told me that the soonest the samples could be collected would be Monday as there was not a vet in today, but he would personally make sure the PM was done first thing Monday morning and if I had not heard from him by 11.30am I could ring and speak to him.

So I wouldn’t know until Monday. But I had been told that the valuer had been responsible for the missing numbers so I could deal with that but first I had more urgent matters to deal with. Had I sent two of my cows to death when only one was meant to die?

 After a good cry and a think I eventually rang the one person I felt I could trust in this matter. My Vet. He was not there but I spoke to the receptionist and she made certain and checked with one of the partners. They were both reactors.  Why was I relieved?

 So my next step was to ring the welfare inspector who did the valuation, and the tagging. She apologised immediately and  told me that the results really would be done on Monday. I was not happy about this as the cows would have been dead for nearly a week and I felt the results would be compromised after all this time. She then went away to try to get one of the Vets ? I thought there were no Vets in today. I just got told that? and see what could be done. Half an hour later she rang to say the samples were there and the PM had been done and there were lesions in the upper respiritory tract. We are now a confirmed case.

 Well at least I know.

 I think.

 This was very convenient.

It would have been very embarrassing if they were negative. Well that’s what the least cynical member of the family said without prompting.

Now we have to wait for about 8 weeks for the written confirmation.

Published in: on Friday July 3rd, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Deed Will Be Done

 

Contemplating food

Contemplating food

 

Well it seems I was being very naive, thinking that DEATHRA would consider cases on their own merit. Anyone would think the policy was for TB eradication in cattle. Alas, even their own vets acknowledge that the proceedure is aimed at monitoring the situation. Nothing more. Therefore any type of control is still a glint in the eye of the future. After many discussions mostly with vets whose spoken english does not extend to being able to recognise a persons full name. With my dealings with three spainish vets has been that the conversations go alongside theirs and they keep using the same phrases in answer to most questions. I would not have a problem if the lives of my cows were not at stake. Meanwhile I have been put in touch with one of the farmers from a Camphill Trust farm nearby, who happens to have encountered similar problems and is making a film about how the disease is being dealt with, or not, in the UK. 

Lazy days

Lazy days

Therefore come Tuesday morning my cows will be taken from their home and will both be dead by lunchtime. Not until six weeks later, will I know if they have the disease.

 The animal health inspectors have been brilliant and very sympathetic, making sure that the girls  final journey will be as stress free as possible.

 Meanwhile we are shearing a few sheep every day, or the days we have not had torrential downpours to soak right into the coats. I am saving a coloured and a white fleece for my mum who is going to spin them. She rang for a recipe for elderflower champagne, this morning and by the time I got off the phone, I had missed The Archers omnibus so will have to cast a spell to wither her hands thus stopping her from ringing anyone ev catch up via the internet.

 We have baby rabbits everywhere and see rabbits every where we go at the moment. It must be a good year. This afternoon I am collecting a root cutter from a local freecycler. The dear boy has learned to weld and picked up a very reasonably priced welding kit from Lidl of all places, as is my duty, I am finding him a few things to do and I want the cutter in working condition before the coming winter, if it is possible. So next week I will be clearing and cultivating a bit of ground to plant some root veg for the animals during the winter.

 It is going to be a very busy week as I have got to go and dismantle a small polytunnel which I have bought. It is 6ft by 12 ft and I need it up soon as I still have some tomato plants to go in and they will come to nothing if I have to plant them out in the open.

Now where did I leave...?

Now where did I leave...?

Published in: on Sunday June 28th, 2009 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Of nightmares

My annual TB test became due, so after arranging a meetup at the cowfield with my Vet, the cows were duly  led out to graze the pathway whilst their necks had patches of hair cut out in order to inject two types of tuburculin to see if they cause a reaction.

The cows were really stroppy and the brown cow sent one injector gun flying into the lean to. Luckily the Vet is well experienced and had painted a “marker” on each gun, both to identify one from the other and to locate them in the case of such an event. The flies are making the cows irritable and the black cow nearly pulled me over with the added assult on her person. When finished, we put the girls back behind the gate and whilst walking back up the bank I was bemoaning the fact that the cow was drying up and not yet in calf so we are going to have to rely on the goats for milk, but this does not cover the butter and cream we have come to rely on. And how can anyone cope without cheese? The Vet told me that we were very lucky to be set up with such luxury as DEATHRA is sneakily introducing the European plan for fresh milk. There will not be any. Within 10 years all milk sold on this island will be UHT. Uuk!!!

 Back at home I felt the need to share this gem of information and felt very smug, not only that we would not have to rely on UHT but we might just be able to readily find homes for any future heifer calves. DH’s first comment was, “I wonder what the next scare will be?” Hmmm…

 Roll forward to the morning of the test reading and I went to check the water as it was going to be a hot day and whilst strolling amongst the girls, The Boy suddenly made a grab for the nearest headcollar as he shouted to me. I went over and there on the necks of them both were huge telltale lumps.

 Panic began. I must try to get rid of the lumps in case the Vet thought they were reactions. Cursing myself that as I had decided to dry off the black cow, I had been doing a distance check. Making sure they were content and they had water rather than go up to them and bring them to the gate where they would stay and shout for hours as the routine was broken. Slowly as I was looking fruitlessly for a homeopathic remedy for flybites or stings, reality dawned.

My beautiful cows were TB reactors!

My moment of dread and to avoid the shock truth, which was just too much, my mind had allowed the facts to filter slowly through over at least an hour whilst I piddled around.

Seeing my face, the Vet realised as soon as he came through the gate that something was very wrong and after confirming what I now knew, he spent a long while just talking about  other stuff, TB in general, TB in the district and about what would happen in the days to come. I remember some of what he said, or most or even all of it, I really don’t know. Firstchild walked away in devastation and drove home as she had a meeting to go to. The Boy and the shepherd came back and we put the girls away and came home.

Numbness took over the rest of the day, but I decided that I might be able to have a retest.  DEATHRAs own figures claim a miserly 65% accuracy for the skin test. I must be a special case as this was in fact 100% of my herd. There were no followers waiting to enter my milkherd, I could not just go out and buy two replacements. My girls were halter broken and can be led around better than a lot of horses. They had been handled and led around since a couple of days old. I could sit beside them and hand milk them. In fact I did daily until 3 days ago. To start again to get a milking cow and be at the stage I am at now, would take a minimum of 3 years. I must work my way through my arguments and I now had hope. I remembered the Vet had said I would hear from DEATHRA in about 10 days. So I had 10 days to decide what I would say and to work out why I should be allowed another test. I would find a herbal immune booster and the girls would be in the peak of health and shrug off the poisonous tuberculin as they have done every year since I got my first cows.

Published in: on Sunday June 21st, 2009 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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