Walk the Walk.

On Sunday, I took a friend to complete a walk started last summer.

 It is one of those Boundary areas to keep out the enemies and runs for 176.3 miles. It is a linear earthworks, made up of a ditch and rampart. It took several years to build and 9th century history suggests it had a few years of importance before being abandoned. Boys stuff then.

Bit like housework really but no-one has yet seen the end to that.

 Anyway last summer, the wettest for a good while, she started the walk just as the rain began and walked nearly 90 miles before having to give up due to injury. It took her over a week to be able to walk around her house without considerable pain. She is walking for a charity Dr Hadwen Trust, who research into medical issues without resorting to animal experiments. A good and worthy cause in my mind. Donations will be much appreciated.

 This time she avoided the heatwave which I felt was a good thing, only for the rain to descend in torrents, 10 minutes before she reached her first digs for the night. And so the week is progressing in a similar way.  She has already done 130+ miles since the start of the walk, and today is entering a difficult part. Basically she will be walking across the top of a mountain and she estimates that it will take 10 hours of walking until she reaches civilization again. Once started, she must be able to finish todays stretch or be left up there to spend the night in the open.

 Yesterday we found a sick lamb, one of  Wispas twin girls. She had eaten something which did not agree with her and was dribbling green froth everywhere and collapsed a couple of times. So after a call to my Vet, I gave an antibiotic injection and lots of fluids. Followed by Nux Vom30, a homeopathic remedy for over indulgance. Later in the day,  The Shepherd found another lamb with a broken leg.  More Veterinary advice and the lamb is now nursing a delightful yellow band of Vetwrap, holding his leg in place. I understood it would take him several days to be able to stand or move around much but this little soldier was up on his feet late evening and gets himself around with relative ease. As can Wispas child who this morning was nowhere to be seen. The well strawed pen just had one lodger with his luminous adornment. The lamb I was really worried about had gone. She was not with her mum and sister, nor with any of my other sheep. I looked further afield but as the bracken is nearly as tall as me, I began to worry we would never find her and had rung everyone who might get reports of a poorly, or dead lamb sighted in the area and had enlisted the help of the Boy to come for a drive around with me in case she had joined the flock and got left during their early morning rambles. The Boy wandered around muttering and happened to spy the lamb tucked behind an old sideboard in one of the outside structures before we even got to the car. Still alive and not at all happy at being reunited with her friend. She has had another dose of antibiotics and is sitting in front of a bucket of clean water. She still has a high temperature and is not out of the woods yet, so I will be spending another day syringing rehydration fluids into her each time I pass.  Of course having cancelled my physiotherapy session I could have made it after all, just.

Published in: on Wednesday July 8th, 2009 at 10:31 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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Flown the nest

One day last week, or maybe longer ago, I became aware that the bluetits sounded more like adult birds quarrelling and chattering.

It was a momentary recognition and no sooner had I walked from the room than it was hastily tucked away in the dim archives of my mind.

Then last weekend, I realised that I have not seen the parents as they squeeze in and out of the boarding beside my window, to and fro with meals of bugs to satisfy their insatiable infants. No squeals of “ME ME ME”.

 They have all flown and I hope they are still nearby as I need them.

 They consume the insects who are hell bent on eating my vegetables, and who join the throngs whose sole aim in life is to annoy the cow, causing such misery at milking time, with the cows tail swishing to swat them and making her kick at them, spilling milk over the dusty ground and often over me.

Published in: on Saturday June 20th, 2009 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  

I have a family of Bluetits living in my bedroom wall.

A while ago I spied the adults  landing on the top of a downpipe which had become detached from it’s mooring and couldn’t work out where they were planning their home. Once it had occured to me that they might all get washed away if we had a real downpour, I re-attached the pipe but they had obviously already found the hole in the wall where the lapboard had lifted, the downpipe was just a landing board.

Now the babies are beginning to get more noisy as their vocal cries for food are  being rewarded and the pitch of the cries have come down to a level which is easy to hear, tho’ easy to miss if engrossed in something else. At first the cries were so high pitched as to be nearly inaudible so I am not sure when they hatched. Anyway the adults are spending their days busily searching all the cobwebbed undersills and crannies around the walls and windows  of the house and places around the garden.

Nesting birds are a very welcome addition to my patch. We have ash and sycamore trees which line the boundary and spread a sticky residue along the outhousing from where blackfly seem to permeate and then move on to my veg patch.

 Last year, unbeknown to us we had a family of wrens in the garden. One morning we saw them just as their children had fledged. They practised flying around using a variety of objects and buildings to provide landing pads. We watched for a while, admiring their skills and feeling honoured that we could witness this sight. Then to our horror, Tactless the cat ran out and caught one of the young, we grabbed the cat but all too late as we examined the bird, it was limp and dead, but worse was to come as another birdchild flew straight at the cat and met its end. For us a whole morning was ruined, but for that family, a whole lifetime wasted.

 This time I will be much more watchful of  the damned cats.


Published in: on Monday June 1st, 2009 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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