herd management

herd management

Now it’s time to start preparations for calving which begins mid February.  I need to wean the remaining calves (bar two) and also reintroduce a group of in-calf heifers back into the main herd. When the cows were housed back in October I separated off these heifers to give the cows with calves at foot enough space. However, I know the reintroduction will cause a ruckus – there will be a good deal of fighting, hierarchical testing and displaying. The cows are heavily pregnant and the yard’s very slippy due to the icy conditions,  I  want to avoid stressing the animals.

I came up with a plan. I would send the whole herd out for the day onto our  frozen wastes, giving them plenty of room and better footing for any fighting. The herd would be full of beans at the general brouhaha, and, having got rid of their pent up energy and resolved hierarchical disputes they’d return safe in the evening. They would also be tired and hungry, which together with the break in routine, would make it easier  for them to accept that their calves had been weaned.

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men do work out – to a tee!

A bawling explosive laval flow erupted from the cow palace and surged in a red steaming flood down the lane practically engulfing Robert, who was trying to instil some kind of control at the forefront. In case he failed and was trampled underfoot we had strategically placed the tractor, topper and gate across the lane to avoid any unstoppable charge down to the River Meadows – luckily this was restraint enough and they poured into Cow Moor kicking, bucking, snorting and farting for England. After a quick gallivant and recky of the field they became aware that there were a good deal more of them than they thought. Let battle commence…I’ll let the photos do the telling!

the battle of the bulge. I was told many , many years ago that fighting cows make for the milk vein with their horns

the battle of the bulge. I was told many, many years ago that fighting cows make for their opponent's milk vein with their horns, which you can see happening here, thankfully these are hornless and relatively harmless (to a degree).

the battle continues for a good half hour

this battle continued for a good half hour, each cow lifting and pushing the other with immense force.

the heifer Kate being taken on by last year's youngest member of the  herd Jemima

heifer Kate (the youngest and smallest to be reintroduced) being taken on by last year's youngest herd member, Jemima. See the steam?

Interestingly Jennifer, the herd matriarch, took absolutely no notice of the confrontations and battles happening around her. If she sauntered passed a tussling pair they would break off and back away submissively. The senior cows in her governing council, however, did test each other, though this was more of a ritualistic display.

Desiree and Wildcat's ritualistic testing

Desiree and Wildcat's ritualistic testing

The weaning also went without a hitch,  there’s scarcely been a squeak  out of  the calves or cows.

Very satisfying.

eyeballing and steaming!

eyeballing and steaming!