Our Cattle in Winter

The calves have now been weaned from the cows in our main herd. They are now back at Stone Farm spending the next few weeks out in Long Field, one of our dryer fields, eating the grass that is still growing slowly, topped up by bales of silage in a feed ring. In a few weeks, or when the weather worsens, they will be brought in to the large cattle shed on the home farm for the rest of winter.

The remainder of the herd, the bull and some forty cows are still working their way through the herbal ley in Lashingcott Meadow at Nethercott. This is a seventeen acre field, large by Devon standards, which was sown with this grass and herb mix earlier in the year. They are enjoying this rich and nutritious food and building up their condition, as you can see in the picture. This is very important because these cows will, we hope, produce next year’s calves in the spring and early summer of 2021.

Later in the month, when the herbal ley has been eaten, the bull will be removed to his own winter quarters in a specially constructed bull pen in the cattle shed at Stone Farm. His work for this year will, we hope, have been done successfully……

The test of that will, however, come later this month when the cattle are all “P.D.’d” or pregnancy diagnosed to check that they really are in calf for next year.

I was reading recently one of the old books we have on the farm,  “A Cyclopaedia of Practical Husbandry and Rural Affairs”, published in 1842. In that there is a great discourse on precisely how long a cow’s gestation or pregnancy lasts. In a ‘scientific’ table, the author puts this at between 220 and 313 days, that is from seven to ten months! However, our expectation is just over nine months and that will be our working assumption when the vet comes to P.D. the cattle in early December.

Meanwhile the cows themselves are eating the rich herbal ley, resting contentedly, looking forward to next spring!