Some colour in the herd

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It’s been an eventful calving season for George Hosford, with surprise outdoor deliveries, red calves, and eight born during a Six Nations match

Cows and calves enjoying some spring sunshine

This year’s calving romped along at a great pace. The 21 heifers all finished weeks ago, and are in the yards with their calves. The main herd started at the beginning of March and over the following weeks popped them out at a good rate. The busiest day saw eight born – and yes, of course it was a Saturday, during the Six Nations rugby tournament. Doug and Brendan had to sort and tag 10 calves on the day, before they got muddled and we lost sight of who belonged to which cow. The little fellow below demonstrates clearly why we decided to bring in a Hereford bull, Theo, as a change from our 100 per cent (black) Angus. He’s irresistible with that white face, red body and fluttery eyelashes.
We didn’t really need to write the bull’s name on her tag, but it has become a habit, avoiding any embarrassing partnerships two years down the line when we bring new heifers into the herd.
Our other bull, Mr Red, is a recessive Red Angus, and he has produced some lovely coloured calves too, bringing even more visual variety into the herd. It will take a cleverer person than I, though, to properly explain the genetics of the recessive Red Angus. Suffice to say he will throw calves of different colours depending on the colour genes carried by the mother!

One of new Hereford bull Theo’s ‘irresistible calves with white faces, red bodies and fluttery eyelashes’.

Surprise deliveries
Recently we had to turf out a pen full of cows into a nearby paddock so that we could use their pen for sorting out the youngstock. They have been outdoors all winter, but have now run out of grub, having worked their way across all the cover crop fields, munching off the mixed species covers at approx 1.2 hectares per day.
This meant that we could, in theory, get on and sow the barley that will follow the cover crop – except that the unusually wet March prevented any tractor action in the fields for weeks.
The youngstock were heading one way, out to a field where we could feed them silage, and the older cows were heading across the farm towards the river meadows, where there is a little new grass.
While the cows were outside, enjoying a very thin bite of grass on a brisk day, two of them decided to calve. Just two hours I left them alone …

The handler must be washed between moving muck and grain

Wet tyres at short notice
The cows get mucked out a couple of times during the winter (to make sure they don’t end up jumping over the gates or banging their heads on the roof of their shed …). The muck gets hauled out to the fields, where it will be composted with woodchip, anaerobic digestate and maybe some green trimmings before being spread as fertiliser in the autumn.
It can be tricky juggling the handler if we have muck to move and grain lorries to load because you can’t just drive from the cow shed, covered in muck, to the grain store (see image above right).
It takes at least half an hour to wash it thoroughly, and then the grain will stick to the tyres if they’re still wet. They’ll then carry the grain outside and spread it all over the yard. Because of this, we do try to avoid mucking out when lorries are due. However, some of the grain merchants can be a bit ‘short notice’ with their collections (or perhaps it is the haulier, it’s hard to tell).
One unfortunate driver had to wait rather too long recently after a misunderstanding with his boss. We had cows temporarily outside, making a field muddy, and the clock was ticking for getting the mucking out finished before dark. The new straw bedding needed to be spread before the handler could be released for washing and loading – and yes, then it had wet tyres anyway.

Goat willow
The 22/23 winter hedge planting campaign has at last drawn to a close. Our target was 1,700 metres of new hedge, plus a quantity of gapping up where we’ve coppiced off some old and gappy hedge under our Stewardship scheme.
With the aid of a team of very keen helpers from Durweston, and others from Bristol, we’ve managed to plant around 12,000 plants, as the weather has allowed, over the winter months. Most of it needed fencing in to keep cattle and marauding deer out! That kept Gary and Brendan busy, when crops and cattle allowed, for weeks.
It is great to see that some of the earliest planted whips are already leafing up and flowering. The ‘pussy willow’ catkins of the Goat Willow looked good but are now fully leafed. The cat paw-like catkins indicate a male plant, and it is to be hoped that we also planted some female ones, so that fertilisation and fruiting may occur.
The female flowers are far less showy, but do offer plenty of nectar to attract insects that, with luck, will bear the pollen on their bodies in order to successfully pollinate.

A welcome new guest in the barn

A new barn guest
Hopefully, we’ll have fewer mouse problems in the combine this year. Who knows where the character in the image below came from? But he’s welcome to stay. Together with the resident owl, his presence will hopefully result in reduced rodent pressure for us!

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