(May 1997) A Farmer Writes

 As the winter disappears with the comet Hale-Bopp it looks like we could be in for yet another dry summer. We have recorded 8mm of rain in March and none in April and as we begin to turn the cows and calves out it is probably one of the earliest springs I have known.

Having started calving at the beginning of February one begins to get tired of late nights, early mornings and interruptions at 2 or 3 a.m. to assist with a difficult birth. However, calving has been fairly trouble free up until now unlike last year when caesarians were occurring at about one a week and at one stage two in one night. Talking to the Vet it seems that problems are generally less frequent in the spring calving beef herd this year. You still get disappointments, for instance when a calf of 6 days old is found dead, probably having been stepped on when the cows decided to have a rampage round the yard. Generally calves’ problems are down to one of three causes – scour, pneumonia or navel infection, the latter being the most difficult to clear up as it often gets into the leg joints (“joint ill”) or into the liver (very serious). Spraying the navel with iodine for a few days to help dry it up and scrupulous hygiene usually keeps the problems at bay.

However, once they are turned out walking through them on a summer evening makes it all worthwhile. I know many people are concerned at having bulls in fields they walk through but beef bulls, especially the Belgian Blues, are pretty quiet. It is in fact the cows with their instinct to protect their calves who should be treated with caution. When walking please make sure you shut all gates, keep dogs under control as it is these that cause the cows most concern and if they are grazing or resting on a footpath please give them a wide berth, walking as far away from them as possible. Grass fields are for animals as well as humans and if the codes are respected it is a beautiful place for all.