Trials, tribulations, and triumphs: a Rawston Farm update

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James Cossins has had a mixed month, with personal loss and the continuing TB testing saga – but silaging is underway, finally

Silage making at Rawston in the late 1960s

It has been a busy time at Rawston Farm over the last few weeks. Firstly we had our dreaded 60 day TB test on all our cattle. We spent nearly four days testing, delaying the turn-out to grass of the young cattle in order to save the time getting them all back in from fields again.
We ended up with a very disappointing result; two reactors and eight inconclusive reactors. The reactors were duly sent to the abattoir, and the results came back as ‘no visible lesions’, which means they probably didn’t have TB, but may have been exposed to it.
We made the difficult decision to also send the inconclusive reactors to the abattoir under a special Animal Health licence – at our expense – as we felt it was unlikely that all of them would come clear at the next test, so would have to go to the abattoir anyway. The result from the inconclusive cattle was again ‘no visible lesions’ which now hopefully means the next 60-day test may go clear.
We have spent hours and hours testing cattle, without finding definitive positive results. I will be relieved when a cattle vaccine becomes available and we can get back to some sort of normality, selling again on the open market.

Dear Cassie
I also had a very distressing time personally with my beloved nine-year-old golden retriever dog Cassie. She suddenly became rather ill and after our local vets had examined her, it was decided to take her to the specialist vets at Ringwood. A flurry of scans found that she had fluid around the heart and a possible tumour on the heart too. The choice was to either carry out major heart surgery or have her put to sleep there.
As any pet owner will agree you need a little bit of time to make that decision. I didn’t want to put her through major surgery, even though I had insurance to cover some of the cost, so I brought her home. The next day she initially appeared fine, but by mid morning she really wasn’t well again. I took the very difficult decision to take her into our local vets and have her put to sleep.
I cannot praise the professionalism of the Damory vet enough, being nearly as upset as I was.
You do wonder sometimes why we keep pets if we have to go through this experience – but the companionship and joy they give us I think far outweighs the sadness at the end.

Too wet, too dry
On a more cheerful note, we have been busy silage-making for our cows’ winter feed. After the wet spring, May has been much drier and we have managed to make some quality (hopefully) silage – and a reasonable quantity. The majority of our combinable crops look well, except for any that were drilled into poor seedbeds. The spring crops sown in April have struggled; the ground was probably too wet and cold at the time and now the soil has dried out too quickly.
Another issue we have found in one or two fields is black-grass, a nasty weed which can impact seriously on crop yields. We are convinced that it must have come from contractors’ balers which had potentially not been properly cleaned when coming from other farms before baling our straw.
There are various ways of controlling black-grass by chemicals, cultivations or changing the type of crop grown, but they have varying degrees of success. We have learned that we must be more vigilant over machines coming onto the farm.

James Cossins’ beautiful retriever Cassie

In other news …
We are hosting Open Farm Sunday on 11th June – the last time was five years ago, and we had more than 2,000 people attending! We hope all vistors will have an enjoyable day out on the farm – in advance the whole Cossins family would like to thank all the local farmers and farm staff who are giving up their Sunday to support both us and our industry.
Finally, after a very tense football season, it is great that AFC Bournemouth are still in the Premiership. We now look forward to next season!

Sponsored by Trethowans – Law as it should be

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