I’ve been lucky this autumn; it’s made up for the diabolical summer.
The sun and gentle mild days have made the grass sweet and palatable, and with the lack of consistent autumnal rain we’ve avoided the sodden, muddy quagmire we’re usually experiencing at this time of the year.
Last week I put the cows onto our forage fields to eat down the seemingly lush grass that had grown up over the last month or so. I need the grass to be well eaten off before I shut the fields up until lambing in March.
I thought I might be tempting fate as most years the grass has very little sustenance in it come the end of October/November. I can’t supplement the cattle with haylage whilst they graze on these fields as it would cause too much damage. So with fingers crossed I waited for the first insistent bawl from them to let me know that whilst the grass may look good it most certainly wasn’t and they were hungry.
It never came. Keeping a careful eye on them, all I was observing were contented and happy stock. But having heard the weather forecast and the promise of cold heavy rain for this week I decided to move them out on Sunday before any harm came to the fields.
‘One more week,’ I mumbled and muttered ‘ that’s all I’m asking for. D’you hear? Just one more week, please and thank you, before I have to bring them in.’
On our cold, wet, waterlogged clay lands we have to house our cattle for at least five months of the year. Not because the cattle can’t cope but because the land can’t. If it’s poached (cut up by the cattle’s feet and weight) the soil structure is damaged, nutrients are lost and, to put it crudely, it’s knackered.
Winter’s are long and hard and take their toll, so come the end of April, having been through lambing and calving, I’m exhausted, every bone in my body weary and desperately longing for the day they can go out. Hence my prayers and mutterings. Each day they’re out shortens the winter by just a little. And believe me, every bit does count!
But today is dark, and cold, and wet…the promised rain has arrived and my cows are no longer content but standing around the feeders in squelchy mud looking miserable.
Suddenly the ditches, choked with leaves, froth and spew bubbling lava flows down the lane, the trees unleash a hard wetting deluge of cold water droplets on my head, and the earth jelly-tremors and sighs in moist, damp wetness.
My honeymoon is over; the cows are coming in…