Last weekend was a short notice visit from the hoof trimming man. We only have the 2 Dexter cows (plus calves) so we had to fit in around his other workload with larger, commercial herds of cattle.
As usual when doing anything with our cows, my first concern was whether I would be able to pen them all safely in preparation for the visit. I’ve definitely learned that if you don’t get them all into a pen at the first attempt then the job immediately becomes considerably harder. It’s even harder if they sense that someone new has arrived because that makes them even more cautious!
Luckily we have fairly well-behaved cows when it comes to moving them around and they happily followed me between fields and straight into the pen before the hoof man arrived. Although I should confess that this wasn’t so much my handling skills as the fact that their breakfast was waiting for them in the pen and they were hungry.
Our Dexters were certainly overdue for this work because we kept putting off the job for the past few months. Originally they were too close to calving but then the calves arrived and we didn’t want to add any stress. After that the bull was visiting during the tail end of summer last year and before you know it we reached December and the hoof man was busy anyway.
I think it’s safe to say the cows just about tolerated the inconvenience and discomfort with good grace. There were a couple of times where each of them decided to thrash about a bit but that’s when decent cattle handling equipment comes into its own and they soon calmed down again.
The actual hoof trimming only took about 30 minutes, it probably took longer getting setup in the first place and then packing up again afterwards. Luckily the cows soon got over the indignity of the whole episode and they seem to have forgiven me now.
I was a little over-confident on Saturday but I learned my lesson (yet again) after staying up most of the night waiting in vain the first litter for this year to arrive.
Over the last few weeks I had been convinced that Saturday would be farrowing day mostly because her last litter came after just 112 days. However Esther had her own ideas on the subject and decided to hang on a little longer this time.
As a result she was quite a size by Sunday morning so I knew it couldn’t be too much longer.
Just before 11pm on Sunday night she finally delivered the first piglet with the others coming at various intervals over the next couple of hours. In some cases they appeared in quite quick succession before we’d managed to properly check and clean the previous one. Luckily that didn’t happen very often and having 2 people on hand during this part made all the difference
There was a brief period at the start where just the single piglet was suckling which was a strange sight but it wasn’t long before the others turned up.
Eventually we ended up with 10 healthy looking piglets under the heat lamp while we waited for Esther to settle down. Even though the piglets should ideally suckle as soon as possible, the best approach for me is to dry them off and put them under the heat lamp out of the way. This helps to prevent any unfortunately accidents or losses which can be really hard to take.
There was a slightly nervous 2 hour wait after the last live piglet appeared but that was eventually ended by the arrival of a stillborn piglet.
Two of them were just a little smaller and seemed to be struggling as first which is always a worry. They immediately went into a warm place which unlike last year was not the oven! This time we used an insulated bag with a hot water bottle and within an hour or so they were much more lively. Definitely something we will use again as it means you can keep all the piglets in the same place rather than dashing between the farrowing shed and the house to check on everyone.
In due course a few of these will be for sale as weaners but this year some of them were reserved in advanced and we also need to consider if we are keeping some for meat ourselves. I’ll also keep an eye on the calendar too because Sissy will be due to farrow a couple of weeks after these piglets have left.
For the moment though we can just enjoy watching their progress over the coming few weeks.
With the Christmas and New Year period very quickly becoming a distant memory, it seemed a good time to post a quick update as a stock check for the coming year. Things have a habit of creeping up on me and getting out of hand if I’m not careful so it’s probably best if I have this summary to look back on before that happens.
As it’s a quiet time for the barn conversion holiday let at the moment, I took the opportunity to put the cows out in the front fields last weekend if only for a short time.
This helps to rest the back fields which are their normal winter home from time to time. Plus they love the change of scenery and the open space.
They can’t stay there too long though because we need to keep them away from guests cars. Apparently some people don’t like having their car windows and tyres licked clean by a cow.
With farrowing getting ever closer, last weekend was also the best time to bring the pigs into the shed closer to the house. It will be Esther who farrows first this time but we bring them both in together as a way to ease the change of surroundings.
As always they happily followed me across the fields without any problems and after a night together in the shed, it was no bother to move Sissy back out again to a new pen in the woods.
It’s been a very slow start for the newest egg layers that we bought back in October last year but over Christmas one of them finally started laying. On a good day we can now get up to 3 eggs a day and it won’t be long before the others join in as well.
When they all get started I’ll have to work on my quiche recipe but there will always be some to leave for arriving guests in the holiday let. Of course I don’t really mind it when the inevitable egg glut happens because that means that spring is get closer too!
The white chickens are the last remnants of the original flock that we inherited when we bought this place back in 2013. As far as I can tell these must be the last 3 from the eggs that were hatched during our first summer here and they’re given special dispensation from egg laying – I hope they’re enjoying their retirement.