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We have had two days of the most perfect autumn weather. Cold misty mornings, bright sun-filled days, and colder clearer nights. I’m shocked, though, by the speed with which the days are drawing in. I don’t mind the darker evenings as much as the dark mornings – getting up when it’s still pitch black is hard and I never get used to it.

Normality is slowly beginning to return to the house and farm. With the last of the family deluge going today leaving just Joe, Jess, Theo, Olly and us behind. What felt crowd a week or so ago now feels remarkably empty!

I’ve been settling the stock into their autumn, or end-of-grazing season, routine. The bull was taken out of the herd about a month ago as the heifer calves begin to become sexually mature: if accidentally served too young they can be damaged for life.

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claves on a misty autumn morning

Of this, I have a story to tell. As a young, happy-go-lucky calf Ivy was born to Vixen in March a few years back. She was not particularly large or forward for her age, just average, and as is normal, I weaned her in January.

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All freshly weaned youngsters are kept as a group on the other side of the cattle shed from the mothers, next to my older in-calf heifers, where they can be fed and cared for separately.

As calving time approaches I begin to check udders and vulvas carefully and bedding down the youngsters one morning I noticed an udder on one of the animals beginning to spring. My first thought was that an in-calf heifer had somehow managed to get herself in with the calves. Strange, as we have heavy, gated pens. Then I did a double take…no, not one of the heifers but a ten month old calf – Ivy.

As I watched her swell I was sure we were in for a rough time. Stories abound of gruesome calvings where the calf has to be dismembered inside its dam. I was positive she would also begin to calve in the early hours of the morning when help would be difficult to get hold of.

So I was really surprised when she thoughtfully began to calve at six-thirty one evening. Ready with ropes, leavers and phone I watched amazed as this little thing managed a faultless labour and delivery of a perfect little heifer calf. What’s more extraordinary, she then proceeded to lick, nuzzle and encourage her baby onto the teat! All this would have been good for an experienced mother but for one as young as Ivy, little more than a baby herself, it was truly remarkable.

My plan was to supplement Kitty, the calf, with extra milk, to ease the strain on Ivy. But no, Kitty was having none of this, and let me know in no uncertain terms that it was her mother, her mother alone, she wanted. Both continued to grow and thrive during the summer, Ivy once again escaping to be served by the bull and holding! A neighbour fell in love with the pair and persuaded me to sell them to her, where they are now and Kitty will calve next year.

sun breaking through the mist over the Rutleighs

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