Another dull, damp and unseasonably warm day, much like the weather at the same time last year. The only good thing is that from now on the days will be getting longer, even if only by a few minutes each day. On Manor Farm everyone is working towards making life as easy as possible over the new year period.
We can do without the several power cuts that have interrupted milking recently.
The cows still have to be milked twice a day, cows about to give birth have to be checked regularly and all the cattle – young and old – have to be fed, kept clean, bedded up and checked for any signs of illness or injury.
While I am on the subject of cattle, I have to tell you that it has just been discovered one of our recently weaned “heifer calves” is actually a little bull calf!
Fortunately this is a rare mistake, but we have decided to have him castrated so he can be reared along with the heifers on our farm.
We do still have two bovines in a field next to the barns – one is a very late calving heifer accompanied by our Aberdeen Angus bull.
They have plenty of grass and shelter where they are, and look very happy, as although it is quite damp it is not too cold.
The Stowell Farm ewe lambs we have here were moved to fresh pasture yesterday, with Kevin and Melissa enlisting the help of Richard and Ian to stand at road crossing points.
Also helping were two of the sheep dogs, an invaluable aid when gathering the lambs. These lambs will now have plenty of grass, which will last until they are moved later on.
Recently I attended an animal welfare conference.
We were given presentations by a vet, a farmer, and representatives from the Farm Animal Welfare Committee and Red Tractor Assurance.
It was a very interesting day, especially a presentation given by The School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, on “preference testing”.
This is when animals are, for example, allowed access to multiple environments.
Tests carried out for hens include those for different types of floor, light intensity and food types. Another test has been done on different loading ramps for cattle, sheep and pigs, along with other scenarios.
These tests only give an indication of preference as there are many variations in animal responses and a management scenario may be chosen that does not maximise long-term fitness.
An illustration of this is a child offered a balanced meal or a chocolate bar will probably chose the chocolate!
Nevertheless, these tests can give an indication of animal preferences and strength of motivation.
As I write I am looking forward to preparing all the fare for a family dinner.
I am going to prepare a traditional meal, with a locally reared turkey and all the trimmings.
Vegetables will include brussels sprouts.
On a recent trip along the east coast of Scotland with Melissa, I saw vast areas of brussels sprouts growing in fields along the roadside, ready for the winter market.
I have heard it said that sprouts are better after a frost, but I am not so sure.
There will be Christmas pudding, well matured but not complete without a topping of brandy butter, plus mince pies made with homemade mincemeat and rough puff pastry – Richard’s favourite. A fresh fruit salad also always goes down well.
While on the subject of fruit, we are still picking raspberries from the garden.
Recently I have seen buzzards perched on telephone wires and on the now bare branches of small trees, looking for a meal.
There seem to be more starlings this year and I was pleased to see a Great Spotted and a Green Woodpecker in our garden the other day.