Problems with twins as calves start coming thick and fast ...

I have been assisting our friendly electrician Keith today with connecting up our new diesel tank for red tractor fuel.

The old tank had to go as it was starting to leak. A plastic bunded tank is not deemed secure enough as a determined oil thief could pierce both the tanks with a sharp implement and drain off the oil. So we have gone for a steel bunded tank.

And what you ask is a bunded tank? Well that’s what I asked anyway. A bunded tank is basically a tank within a tank. The larger outside tank can hold 110% of the capacity of the smaller tank, so that the surroundings of the smaller tank are protected from any oil spills or leakages. New regulations you see. Plus with all its locks and sealed covers it is hopefully theft proof. Not that anything is ever totally proof against theft. But four determined dogs setting up a warning racket are quite a convincing deterrent as they have shown on more than one occasion.

My other job today has been maternity duties as John is off shooting. Again. Calves are coming thick and fast. At least one new calf every day and twins at the weekend.

John has taken the bull calf away as, despite the heifer twin looking more fragile, she was actually taking more of the cow’s milk than the bull calf. He is now bawling his head off in a little pen in the big shed. All alone but getting a lot of attention from both of us.

Even noticed a few guinea fowl roosting on the bars of his pen last night so he does not lack company.

Although it is a blessing to get twins, the heifer will not be able to come into the herd as she will most probably be sterile.

Apparently in the womb, both of these twins, known as freemartins, share the placental membranes connected to their Mum. Although the male twin in this case is only affected by reduced fertility, nearly all the female twins are completely infertile because of the transfer of hormones.

Various other peculiar differences also occur which I will not mention. This is a family column. Interestingly, although it may happen in sheep, it does not happen in any other animals. Including humans. Phew.

Moving on from this small diversion into bovine anatomy, the other calves are doing fine. What does divert us however is our cows’ propensity to lose their ear tags. John and I quite often have to track through the herd records to identify which cow is which either from a scrap of ear tag, a barely discernible number on an ear tag if the cow still has one, or a process of elimination from those cows that do have their tags and are easily identifiable.

I tell you these bureaucrats have no idea what it is like to actually carry out their regulations. A dimly lit foldaway with a herd of very curious beasts crowding round you bears no comparison to a well lit office where the rules are made.

Mrs Downs Diary