The sneaky crew that is sticking together

Mrs Downs Diary
Mrs Downs Diary

Out in the fields the four calves that were all born within a week or two of each other, continue to stick close together.

Compared to the rest of the herd and the hulking great calves born in early spring / late winter they look tiny. But they are a sneaky crew.

Clearly they all appeal to the maternal urge of the cows as they seem to be able to suckle from any random cow that is close to them, rather than solely off their Mums. The cows love them too.

You often see them come up and nudge these little ones when they are lying next to each other.

Perhaps because their own calves are bigger and taking less milk off them, they see these youngsters who are always eager to suck, as a useful way of taking the pressure off their full udders.

But perversely this will keep their milk in. When we do bring the herd inside and wean the big calves, the idea is so that the cows can dry off before calving again.

With these four greedy little beggars there is fat chance of that.

But that is a month away so by then things may have changed.

My chick population continues to be decimated by an unseen foe. Unhappily so has the clutch of chicks that my granddaughter Jessica has at her home. Her Dad, Chris, has made a superb run for the chicks.

Bryony, my daughter has bought a state of the art hen house. Everything is shut up tight at night, but something has still got in and either dragged the chicks off, or just eaten the heads and part of their bodies.

Jess has been distraught as she find the slaughtered remains each morning or counts up and sees chicks are missing.

Nature is cruel. Red in tooth and claw. I think it is a stoat as I do not know how anything else could have got in.

Chris has now bought a Fenn trap, the type approved by the authorities and which will hopefully catch either rat or stoat when they come visiting.

John has set up some Fenn traps for me too. Not me personally, although I am sure he has considered one for his cheque book, wallet, secret ( he thinks) stash of pennies.

No, these traps are for the rats which, with the onset of autumn and with all the fields now clear of corn, are coming into the farm buildings for shelter and food.

Many of our friends have noted the huge increase in the rat population on their farms, maybe because as well we had such a mild winter.

But it is not only farms. Eco gardening, which Bryony and Chris advocate with their compost heap, and bird feeders, of which they have many, also encourage rats into suburban gardens.

Female rats can have up to five litters a year with about seven of the young surviving from the average number of fourteen babies born.

That’s a lot of rats.