We just heard an almighty shout from Dad. Don't panic Mr Mainwaring! He hadn't driven into anything...he'd dropped his mince pie. A little quiet on the blog recently, but this little tale should reassure you all is well at the farm.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at Lower Dairy Farm!
Rather quiet on the blog, but there is a good reason for this. We are fighting the biggest menace to the tranquility of the Stour Valley since the arrival of Humbug. The invasion of Godzilla Cow threatens the safety of all the animals in the Stour Valley. Stay strong comrades!
The bullocks have left the Marsh and are now roaming the Popple Field beside the house.
This year's new intake are already begging for apples; a new record for Mum's training regime. First thing in the morning, it can be alarming when you've forgotten they were in the field and a giant bullock suddenly looms over the hedge. Other fun occupations in the life of a bullock (and life on the farm is never dull!) include chasing chickens, staring out Humbug, and escorting walkers along the roadside - such gentlemen!
Obviously, staring in an unimpressed fashion at the activity around the house and farm shop is another favourite. As we haul bales back from the village, there's lots to keep them (and us) occupied. It was nearly Mercator time in our last blog post...but several cloud bursts later have bought a little time. Humbug is just going to have to toughen up and walk through the barley, and Dad can be found polishing the Mercator before the Mighty Beast is called to action.
Our crossbred herd ranges from the stately Queenie to the gormless but lovely No. 100. Each have their own merits, from producing smashing calves, size and build, to a good nature, or occasionally they're just a cow to which we're very attached. Whatever they may claim, every decent farm has one or two of these. We do not keep a bull on the farm (Thistle, a substantially built cow, is often mistaken for one from afar), but instead, browse the Genus Beef Directory to choose a sire for our calves. When choosing a bull the most important factors for us are high calving ease, strong growth rates and calf quality. We do this by looking at the Beef Sire Index which compares the individual bull to the breed average. Smaller calves that grow fast are ideal in our system, although recently we've produced some monsters!
Currently, we use two bulls: the mighty Hereford, Solpoll 1 Ferrari, and the lively Aberdeen Angus, Nightingale Ploughman. Ploughman has reached the 'legendary' status of 'Diamond Sire' with over 100,000 calves in his beef sires proof. He's a busy bull.
I favour giant, dopey Herefords; Dad favours Angus' - you have to watch him when he's by the AI flask or else we'd have 100% Angus calves. To celebrate our latest batch, and to see if you think Dad got his way, it's Game Time! Put your observation skills to the test in our "simple" matching challenge:
Answers below. And for those who need a helping hand: the mothers include two heifers, a giant, a "slow to regain her figure" cow, and a brown one who likes to kick. No need to thank me. A pat on the back if you scored 5-out-of 5 - or a kick in the case of Crispin (E).
Answers: Hereford: A (wingnut ears - dead giveaway!), B, E. Angus: C, D
Unfortunately, it has become clear that the twins spent a very long nine months together, and now avoid each other at all costs. Sharing an udder is just about bearable, but whilst I was hoping for adorable curled up together photos, instead, we have anti-social siblings.Constable, seen here in a melodramatic, artistic funk. And Constance, proving she is not your typical heifer, but something of a hard nut.This picture makes me want to name them 'Bianca and Ricky', but sadly we are in the year of 'C', and the naming baton was set pretty high with previous twins called 'Mikhail and Raisa'. A definite step up from our first, Daisy and Maisy, but Jo is still upset the Gorbachevs did not reply to the birth announcement sent to the Kremlin.
This calf was one and a half weeks late and No. 100 is yet to regain her former barrel-slim figure. Who knew she could get any wider? It may be necessary to use a panorama setting for her next photo.
If No. 100's calf is not to the taste of our fussy twins, an Angus cross arrived yesterday to a very grumpy cow who does not want to share, let alone allow photos of her calf. She was a nightmare for her first calf, good with the next, and is now verging on difficult; which begs the question, why are we breeding from her? The twins won't be playing with this one for a while! Photos soon when the hormones have died down a little.
You may be thinking, "..that sounds like an awful lot of calves!", and you would be right. However, Dad is intent on proving his AI credentials, and we have another two due this week, and more on the way.
Helen and I believe this is Dad's subconscious telling him block calving is the way forward...listen to your inner voice Dad...and pray not too many double up!
The bullocks and heifers were first out to grass this year, and took the opportunity to race up and down the Long Meadow. The key is to get to the gate before they've hit the end of the field and made it back again, otherwise they'll run straight back into the yard and out again because it's sooooo much fun!
(me jumping into hedge to get out of the way...) And off they go again!The cows are awaiting their turn, but with hail and lightning this weekend, they seem happy to stay in the shelter of the barn a little longer.Bring on spring!