Wiltshire calves are allowed into fields while GPS-linked farm device proves fascinating

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: A lamb takes a leisurely rest in a feed bowl in a paddock at Stowell Farm. Lambing season is almost over on the farm A lamb takes a leisurely rest in a feed bowl in a paddock at Stowell Farm. Lambing season is almost over on the farm

Another dry, sunny week, although for most of the time there has been a chilly north- westerly breeze.

I mentioned last week that Richard and I had been on memorable visits to the farms at Highgrove and Windsor Park.

These farms both have dairy herds but are managed in totally different ways.

Highgrove has a large herd of Ayshire cows run on an organic system, where the cows are loose-housed in a large barn bedded with straw, then turned out to grass in the spring. They are milked through a traditional herringbone milking parlour. 

The Prince Consort Dairy at Windsor Park, runs a herd of Jersey cows, housed in a large cubicle barn, where the cubicles are fitted with water mattresses covered with a thin layer of sawdust.

The floor of the barn is comfortably slatted, so the slurry is collected in a storage area below.

The floor is kept scrupulously clean by a robotic scraper, which is about a metre square and half a metre high with a scraper arm attached to it.

This machine is linked to GPS, which guides it around the barn when in use.

It was fascinating to watch as it moved around cleaning up, before reversing itself into a parking area next to the cubicles.

The cows are milked through three robotic milking units and are turned out to grass for one or two hourly intervals during the day, when spring arrives.

Back here on Manor Farm the heifer calves born last autumn were turned out for the first time. This operation always requires the help of as many people as possible to ensure everything runs smoothly.

The calves were loaded onto two large cattle trailers, before being transported to a field on the farm that has a visible hedge and wall boundary, with an electric fence in front.

Natalie, Jenny, Richard, Ian, David and myself positioned ourselves around the edge of the field to slow the excited calves down as they approached the fence.

Fortunately, apart from breaking the electric fence once, the calves soon settled into their new surroundings. The milking cows are out day and night, although they are allowed limited access to the conserved forage ration they have been receiving.

During the week we had to call our vet to have a look at three animals. One was a scouring calf, the other two were milking cows, one of which had mastitis and the other one was unwell. All three animals were diagnosed, treated with the appropriate medication and are now recovering.

During the week Richard, Ian and David have been power harrowing the fields to be planted with maize. Preparing a seed bed in some parts of the fields has proved challenging, so it has been necessary to go over these areas several times with different machines.

On a walk around the farm we noticed that the recently planted field of spring barley has now germinated. This was good to see as it was impossible to produce a really good seed bed, following the wet weather we experienced over the winter. We also noticed that some of our new grass leys will soon be ready to cut for silage.

On Stowell Farm lambing is almost over, with only 30 to 40 ewes left to give birth. The generally better weather over the last month has helped the lambs get off to a good start, although the wide difference in day and night temperature has caused a slight problem, with a few of the lambs succumbing to pasteurellosis.

This is caused by a bacteria which is found in 95 per cent of sheep and is often triggered by stress, leading to pneumonia, mastitis in ewes and septicaemia in young lambs.

A few of the lambs that may be a little weak when they are born are not taken to the parks with their mothers – instead they are kept in a small paddock next to the farm, where a close eye can be kept on them.

This week has also seen the arrival of our swallows. I’m pleased to say I saw more than one, so we should get a summer!

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