Weaning the calves causes quite a racket

We are sleeping with ear plugs in tonight. Well, not really. But the neighbours in our village might want to if they sleep lightly. We do not as we are usually whacked by the time we turn in and asleep immediately.

Today we started to wean the calves. Currently thirty recently orphaned to their minds calves are in the foldyard next to the house. What a racket. Their Mums out in the fields cannot hear them as we have made sure that they cannot access the fields closest to home.

When we used to milk it was a regular occurrence for one of the dairy cows, whose calf had been taken away at about three days old, to turn up in the farmyard after crashing through a hedge to get to her baby.

Weaning has been a mucky business as we have had to bring the cows and calves into the corral inland in order to separate Mums from offspring. They are tempted by the offer of unlimited silage just through the corral gates. Cows can resist anything except temptation. Or silage.

Despite tonnes of stone being laid down each year in the corral, it sinks without trace when trampled on by about a hundred cattle, aided especially by this seasons downpours.

We were up to our wellie tops in mud. Slurp, slurp, slurp at every step. A cunningly arranged system of gates, best purchase this year they have been so useful, split cows and calves up and straight into a trailer.

Almost all last year’s bullocks have now been sold so the foldyards were empty, except for a truly orphaned calf and a very slow developer. But now they are filling up rapidly. The cows themselves will not come home for at least another month, but we are bringing the bull home today as he definitely needs feeding up. He has lost ground over the summer.

After a literally shaky start as he had an abscess in his hoof, he has fulfilled his role and purpose in life admirably. Now he can have the rest of the autumn and early winter to recuperate and recover.

The plan is now to give the corral a day or two to dry up as sunshine is forecast. Sunshine? What is that?

So the next campaign is to wage war on slugs. Despite one top dressing of slug pellets a new generation is already attacking the freshly emergent rape.

Last night, before it was totally dark, John went over a field he is power harrowing for wheat to scatter another load of pellets before drilling the corn, and top dress the rape. This morning slug Armageddon.

Slug pellets have to be applied with care as metaldehyde, an active component can be lethal to hedgehogs in large quantities.

We use a low dosage , ensure it does not enter a water course and only apply when necessary. Difficult balance to maintain but the wet season, lower yields this year and predicted food shortages next year, focus your mind very sharply on producing the goods.

Mrs Downs Diary