Every year I sell some of my cows and heifers. Generally it’s a handful of my yearling heifers and a few cows from the main herd.

Heather’s a young down calving heifer who’s up for sale. She’s due to calve in the next few weeks with her second calf. Yesterday when I checked the cows she looked very imminent. Her vulva was engorged and she was holding her tail high, her bones were soft and her udder was beginning to fill. I decided to bring her back up to the farm to keep an eye on her.

On our way down to the river meadows to collect her and a couple of other animals being sold Robert was keen to look for dormice nests in the hedges along the lane.

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Although dormice are associated with woodland in most people’s minds, here in Devon they are found in our splendid hedges as well. A rare and threatened species throughout Europe, we need to find out what its habitat needs are if we are to prevent further declines. Although quite a bit of work has been done looking at what types of hedges dormice inhabit – tall, thick and species-rich ones – and what they eat – berries, nuts and insects – very little is known about their nesting habits away from woods. What work has been done has been based on providing nest boxes or tubes, artificial homes. Robert is trying to find out where in hedges dormice naturally nest, and from this work out what sort of hedge management creates the best conditions. So, in the autumn, when the leaves are falling and the breeding season is over so there’s little risk of disturbing the animals (that would require a licence), he searches for the used nests in our hedgerows.

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Excitingly we found several – beautifully woven out of stripped honeysuckle bark, grasses, bramble leaves and ferns. A pigmy shrew had taken up residence in one and kept busily popping its head in and out to see who the uninvited guests were! In our searching we also came across song thrush, blackbird and chaffinch nests.

We extricated the cows we needed from the herd, brought them home and put them in a field close to hand. Not hugely impressed by being taken away from the herd they have, nonetheless, grudgingly settled down.
I should have updates on Heather’s calving in the next week or so.

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