10 Interesting Facts about farming life in the calving shed at Potadoodle do, Berwick.
- 1. Well, the cattle are now heavily pregnant and lying around like beached whales. Their gestation period is the same as humans, i.e. a 9-month wait. When you have over 100 cows to calve and all in the space of 6-8 weeks it can be a very busy and challenging time for Farmer John and his assistants – Dan and Ryan.
- 2. The cows can calve at any time day or night so it is 24/7 for John and Dan and I am not afraid to admit that tempers can get frayed due to lack of sleep – we quite often call him Grumpy John at this time of year!
- 3. To make the job a bit more bearable we have a 360-degree camera in the shed which is connected to a Monitor in the farm house so we can keep an eye on them all the time without the necessity to go out to the shed all the time. This is an essential bit of kit as far as we are concerned and we all get a bit tetchy if the camera goes on the blink!
- 4. We all watch the screen and every time a tail is swished we think there might be labour pain in the making. We can zoom in on the camera to have a good look and we can also get her tag number so we know who she is. They do all have names and we love every one of them!
- 5. We also have a “Moo call” which is a device that you put on the cows tail if you think she is close to giving birth. She might be a very special cow or one that cost an arm and a leg and the last thing you want is for her to lose her calf. When she starts labour the Moo call sends a text to Farmer Dans phone and he is aware of the situation. When another hour of labour passes he gets another text and then he knows that she is definitely going to calf and can get prepared and keep a close eye on her.
- 6. When a calf is born it is very important that they get colostrum (their mothers first milk) within six hours of their birth to ensure they will survive. The sooner the better in fact and Farmer John, even if he is grumpy with lack of sleep, would never go to bed until he sees the calf getting a drink of milk from its mother. In our house-animals comes first- always! Now and again calves will need a topup feed until their mother’s milk is produced and, just like humans, Farmer John will mix up some powdered milk and put it in a bottle with a teat and feed the calf himself.
- 7. Life in the farming shed is full on at this time of year and Farmer John and his team can be busy all day looking after cows and calves and tending to their needs.
- 8. Farmer John and his team must make sure that the cow has a good diet so that she can produce milk for her young calf. This is an essential part of good husbandry in the maternity unit.
- 9. Once the calf is up and getting milk it will be transferred to the next shed where it will stay with other mothers until such time as they go out to the grass. This transfer involves the “Maternity COT” i.e. a large green wheelbarrow- the calf is put in the barrow and the mother follows on behind as Farmer Dan wheels it away down through the shed to their new home. They will still be monitored in this shed to ensure the calf is getting enough milk and to check the mother health too.
- 10. Before they go out to the field they all have to be given an identity tag. This can be a dangerous job as the mother does not want you to hurt her calf. Normally Farmer John will do this when the mother is getting some food and is slightly distracted but you still have to be vigilant. My job is to make sure everyone gets fed, gets lots of cups of tea when required and to try to keep everyone chipper!! It’s a long time to be kept so busy and tempers can fray so sometimes I do feel like a referee! However we all enjoy what we do and know it doesn’t last forever. However there are lots of other things to do on the farm too- fertiliser needs to be put on when the weather is good and spraying might need to be done then I come along and put a spanner in the works and ask “when are my new wigwams going to be sited- I have a business to run”
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