Life on the Farm
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a lovely festive season, whatever you were up to. January can be a bit of a difficult month for some, so I hope you’re all doing ok. Its February already, which for us means I’ll be having a baby in about 2 months’ time! We have also still been plugging away at the living room and new bedroom renovations, which are all coming together well and will hopefully all be finished and ready for baby arriving.
Life on the farm has kept pretty hectic, but I do love that because we’re not ones for sitting still for long. My husband Gavin sadly caught Covid-19 a couple of weeks ago so we all had to self-isolate. To add to the fun of it I was left at home on my own with 3 year-old Jack for the week, but to have the space to adventure outdoors is amazing and I will always stay humble and grateful for what we have. Gavin was able to isolate completely alone in a friends annexe, which hugely reduced the risk of Jack or I picking it up which is a priority with the baby too. For this I will be eternally grateful. Luckily we are all well and Gavin was not ill with it, which is a bonus!
As mentioned last month we sold some of our calves from last year at the beginning of January at United Auction mart in Stirling and we are pretty happy with the price we sold them for. With all the changes around Brexit and Covid-19 things have been quite uncertain in the farming world, but prices for beef seem to be doing well. This is a good help as the price of fertiliser for the fields has increased nearly 2 fold since last year, along with other price increases.
Farming, as some say, is like gambling because there is never a definite price for selling your goods and it can all change very quickly. The price we got this year for our calves is not promised for next year, and although it does sound too uncertain and too much of a gamble for some, it provides a lifestyle that we love.
This time of year also means we have now started calving our heifers. These girls were born on farm 2 years ago from our own cows, they were kept to become part of our heard and are now old enough to start calving. It’s not too intense at the moment but can sometimes get pretty busy, but it is a great time of year seeing new lives skipping about our pens. We have around 20 heifers to calve and so far we have 2 calves on the ground. After that we then have another 40 cows to calve.
Once a calf is born we spray the navel (bellybutton) of the calf with iodine to try and prevent any infection and they need to be up on their feet as soon as possible to have some colostrum from mum. The cows and calves are kept in individual pens during calving to allow them space to give birth and bond. It also means the calves and cows have some softer bedding to lie on. Once the calves are strong enough they can join the older ones in a bigger pen. This is the best time as all of the calves play together and run around the pen.
This year I will be staying away from the hands on part. With being nearly 7 months pregnant it’s too much of a risk for me to be kicked or pick up any unwanted bugs. So my job is to keep the fire stocked and help with any paperwork I can…….as well as picking paint colours for the living room! I do pop out through the day to keep an eye on those due and make sure no one has decided to have a baby unsupervised. During calving we need to make sure the calf is out within about an hour, if something is progressing I’ll keep in touch with Gav when he is at work through the day and let him know of any changes.
The other concern with heifers is that because they have never had a calf before, we don’t know what their temperament can be. Pretty much all of our cows are good and if you give them time and space they don’t get grumpy. But there is the odd one which can catch you out and through being protective of their calf, might decide she doesn’t want you in the pen or anywhere near her new-born. This can make life difficult, but I’m just glad Gav is a fast mover! He also knows each of the cows, so if he feels something is not right he will take a step back.
As I mentioned last month the next round of AECS (Agri-Environment Climate Scheme) applications are now open. This Government funded scheme has been well used by farmers across the country for a few years now and is a good initiative to help promotion of low carbon farming and helping the environment. Here is a link to the scheme if anyone would like more information. AECS 2022.
Back in 2019 we had our own AECS project, which was a new slurry tower. This is to store the slurry the cows produce over the winter, which we then use in the spring to spread on the fields and in turn promotes better grass growth. Throughout the winter months we are unable to spread the slurry as the fields are not dry enough to hold the tractor, so it would be doing more damage to the ground than good. The picture below shows the tractor we use that has a scraper on the back, used to clean out the cubicle shed where the cows are. This pushes the slurry into the reception tank, it is then pumped up into the tower for storage.
Next month will possibly be my last blog post for a while as I will be going off on maternity leave. I’ll give some more updates on calving, the house and of course I’ll just need to pop a wee picture in of bump before baby arrives.
As always, please let me know if there is anything I have covered but you would like more information on or if there are any topics you would like me to cover. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for regular rural updates.
See you next month,