Calf proves a suckling non-starter

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NEW calves continue to enter the herd with reassuring rapidity. Up to now none have presented any problems with suckling, but there is always a first, and we have a definite non starter in our midst. A calf who has sussed out that the easiest way to get fed is to let John strip his Mum out and then tube feed him the milk, rather than go to all the trouble of getting under her himself and suckling.

It will not even suck milk from your fingers. We have both tried the calf with a bucket of milk and letting the calf suck it up through your fingers, but no go.

So the calf is doing OK because it is getting plenty of milk, but as soon as John thinks it will survive a bit of starving, that will be the next trick.

Nothing like hunger to persuade a calf to get on to its Mum. The cow is very keen and at a loss as to why her baby is not interested in feeding.

Several years ago we had another calf that refused to feed on its own for weeks.

We called it ‘our special needs stock’. But eventually, and this was nearly a full year after his peers had gone to market, Freddy was fit enough.

There is just no escape.

Although we are some weeks off lambing, I have already started to see new lambs out in the field with their Mums.

We shall continue to have some calves as we go into lambing, but not, I think and hope, at the same frequency as they are arriving now. The paperwork might overwhelm us.

Meanwhile, in preparation for lambing John has started to feed the ewes concentrates.

They have been having hay and a protein lick since the end of November when the bad weather kicked in, but as they near lambing time, the ewes need that extra nourishment.

We do not scan the ewes so are not as selective as some farms are in the amount they feed, dependant on singles, twins or triplets. With us it is first to the troughs and good luck. Seems to have worked for many years.

There is a pensive mood tonight at home after attending the funeral of John’s Uncle Fred.

His daughters had prepared a memory board of photos recalling his life and amongst them were a few of John as a young lad with some of the pedigree Jerseys his father used to milk.

The occasion was a celebration and outpouring of respect and affection for Fred whilst acknowledging the loss and grief of his daughters.

As we followed the hearse and drove up to the church, the lane was crammed with cars, stretching well out of the village. In the church, the vicar had had to fill the choir stalls with those who had come to pay their requests, and at the back of the church it was literally standing room only.

The farming fraternity supports its own.