Managing small numbers of cattleRSS feed

Posted: Sunday 13 January, 2013

by Rosemary at 1:31pm in Cattle Comments closed

When we only had three ewes, we couldn’t do what those with bigger flocks would do as a matter of course – for example, splitting the flock into those carrying twins and those carrying singles to allow correct feeding just isn’t going to happen. With eleven in lamb this year, it’s become a bit easier.

However, the perils of small numbers now apply to the cattle. We have two cows with calves at foot and a bullock of about 18 months. Now, when we bought Henry - the bullock – he was six months old and a year younger then Breeze and Blizzard. Now he’s bigger than both of them.

When it came to housing them (see previous diary entry), neither of the two areas we had available was big enough to house all five cattle. Since the calves were six and seven months old, I decided to put the calves in the byre and the three big cattle in the barn, thus weaning the calves. There was a lot of bawling and both cows lost a bit of weight, but Breeze in particular looks a bit skinny. I also noticed that Henry and Blizzard were giving her a bit of a hard time.

So I decided to do a wee swap about, moving Annie (calf) in with Blizzard (her mother) and Henry in the barn and putting Breeze in with George (her calf) in the byre.

Did that stop the bawling? No. Breeze was still bawling, and Blizzard was replying. Bearing in mind that they were born on the same croft and never separated, I thought Breeze might be pining for her sister.

So today, we swapped Breeze and Henry, making a girlie group in the barn and a bachelor pair in the byre. That was worse – the boys were OK, but Breeze ended up jumping out of the barn. I was in the feed store and saw her go past the door. :-(

Being a tame cow, I was able to slip a halter on her and… we swapped her and Henry back. Hopefully, everyone will stay put now and a bit of calm will break out. :-)

On the positive side, George and Annie’s halter training is going pretty well. I wish I had persevered more with Henry last winter – he’s a big boy to train now, although he’s pretty canny.

Next year, I’d like to be able to leave the cows to wean the calves – I would have done that this year but the accommodation forced my hand. Both cows are in calf again and I’m stressing a bit that all their stress will adversely affect the calves. I think if I’m going to wean the calves, I need to get them away out of earshot.

So we all just have to live with this year’s arrangements, but I’m already planning a better set up for next year.

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