We have a cunning plan to vaccinate the cows ... and we’ll probably end up jabbing ourselves

With few signs of improvement in the weather, we are making arrangements for the herd to come home. The calves that were weaned a week ago have settled. No more bawling day and night.

Logistically the biggest problem facing us is how to inject all the expectant Mums for rotavirus. This disease is recognised as a common cause of infectious calf scour and created havoc in our herd a couple of years ago.

We lost several calves with the condition. The ones that recovered never thrived. Calves derive immunity from the colostrum in the milk from their Mums in the first days of life if the cows have been vaccinated against rotavirus. The time has come to carry out this procedure.

Normally we could arrange to gather the cows in the corral and push them through one at a time into the crush so that they were secure when jabbed.

It is a different job vaccinating a suckler cow to a dairy one. When we milked, the cows patiently waited their turn (all sorted out amongst themselves from top cow to bottom of the pile) to come into the parlour.

Once in and attached to the milking cluster, they got their heads into the feed hopper and were oblivious to what was happening until they had finished their dairy nuts. Jabs, swabs, artificial insemination, whatever; not a problem. But suckler cows are not used to being handled on a daily basis. Wild is the best way to describe them.

The weather has precluded the use of the outside corral. Both of us have lost wellies in the morass and mud in there. Trying to chase anything is like wading through glue.

So a cunning plan has formed involving once more the use of the gate system we bought earlier in the year.

The idea is first to get the cows home. Simples. By means of the haylage enticement method, we intend to get them closer and closer to the last field gate until it is only a short belt across the road and into the farmyard.

Then to gather the cows in the heifers’ yard and only to allow them out one at a time, though the aforementioned gate system, into a mini duck trap set up that leads into the crush.

This will be cunningly hidden behind the corner of the yard so that in theory (note in theory) each cow does not see the crush until the last minute. Then, either they will walk in (unlikely) or back off.

Here is the cunning bit. John will be hidden behind the corner with needle and vaccine all prepped.

Either they walk into the crush and get jabbed in there, or back off and get jabbed in the bum from the rear anyway.

Can’t wait to see if it works and how many times John and I will be vaccinated. And it all has to be repeated in a month’s time as well.

So, no problems with the runs for us this winter.

Mrs Downs