|Posted on 30 August, 2016 at 15:25||comments (1)|
So here we are again……………. That dreaded day again, we’re on route to the abattoir with two of our beautiful home bred Dexters (breed of cattle) steers (boys), ‘sonny and pops’. We try not to name them, but when working with them and having so few it’s easier to know who is who and slightly more respectful than a number. You need to remember we are there the moment they are born, help them through any injuries and we take them at the end.
It seems like yesterday we decided we wanted a herd of our own, we had been to Blaksley show (a local country show) and saw some Dexters being shown, they are a lot smaller than normal cattle and seemed very well behaved in the ring and when talking to the breeder whilst they were brushing, trimming and hair spraying their own cows, we decided they looked very placid and a good idea!!!!!
So I was off, researching breeders, we found a lot on the society page, I whittled it down to two then decided to arrange a visit to a breeder to discuss buying options.
My list of wants came as followed:
• Pedigree Red
• Short leg
• 3 cows ( a cow is after motherhood and a heifer is before)
• In calf
• Halter trained
• 4 well-proportioned teats
• A square bum and a ridge along the back, not to fat, not too thin.
So our first meeting was with a pair of breeders who were also judges in the Dexter world, they were obviously very good at their jobs as I feel they were judging us the moment we rocked up. It was all very pleasant and I put on my best voice! We followed them to the field and we were looking at all the cattle who didn’t seem that interested in us. I asked if they were halter trained, and her answer was “No Dear, these are not my show cows” so I replied that we were looking for good breeding stock with hope to show them. She looked at me with a slightly tilted head and said “you know dear, my show cows are very expensive” . Now, I don’t like to waste peoples time, but I looked back knowing at this point we were never going to do business and replied “ I hadn’t realised we had discussed money, have we talked budget?” So in the car to the next field following their old jag. We had already decided they weren’t going to show us anything worth showing we had a quick look at the “show” cows and left, I’m not sure we ever did get around to discussing money!
So on to the next lot of breeders, this time I had a clean ironed Joules top on and Bobby gelled his hair, I thought if we looked the part we might get a bit further!!
We pulled up in to the farm yard and as the couple walked out the house, you could see the honest kindness on their faces (I like to think I’m quite good at reading people.) We went up to the field to look at the cows, there were a lot to see, each and every one had a name and we were told a little bit about their individual personalities. We could tell they were well loved and respected, we went back to the house discussed prices and went away with a lot to think about, do we go young and pretty or older proven? Well, we did the predictable thing and went young and pretty of course
The decision was made ……..Rose a short red which is a prize winning cow, in calf with her a steer at foot, and Gwen another short red, in calf and with a black heifer (Berry) at foot.
Although it was less cows than we wanted we decided to go with quality not quantity.
We went to pick them up after being pregnancy tested and tb tested and bought them home, you could tell how well loved Rose was, there were a lot of tears as we left.
We had been home 3 days…………….and Rose came running down the field for her breakfast, and cut a teat with her back foot!! There was blood everywhere, the panic had set in we had spent a fortune on a cow which now had a teat hanging off!! (teats are very important when it comes to showing). I rang the people we had bought them from, they had never seen this happen before!!! I rang in panic to the people down the road who had been breading Dexters for many years, they had never seen this before, I rang the vet, she came out and could not understand the panic in my voice we tried to get her to stitch it, to minimise scaring, but Rose wouldn’t let her! We sprayed it blue and hoped for the best………….imagine my feelings , 3 days after buying a prize winning cow, It had halved its own value, I was gutted, not the best start to our Dexer adventure. On the plus side, the chances of it happening again to us were none existent as it’s such a rare thing to happen!
So the following year we had sonny and pops (we really wanted girls but we got boys)
Then in 2016 we had Ivy a beautiful red short leg heifer, from Rose. Gwen produced a red long legged steer, Beefy! Berry was Struggling, we had never needed to help a cow calve before we were all a bit blind to the situation, she looked uncomfortable in the afternoon but seeing as every Dexter breeder we had spoken too, said, as a breed they never really need help! We left her too it a bit longer (with sheep sometimes they just need a bit of time especially first time). We were sat waiting, watching and could see 2 feet (they come out like superman) and came to the conclusion she needed help, we had some rope, iodine and that was it we started pulling with contractions (like sheep), it wasn’t moving, after about half an hour we could see a mouth and tong hanging out, it wasn’t looking good this calf was well and truly stuck Berry collapsed on to the floor, we were desperately trying to get this calf out, Berry had given up. I was not prepared to let her die. It felt like hours but probably only 20 mins, we got the calf out, dead, we bought him round to show Berry, it was a very large red long legged steer. She knew it was dead and just laid down. I cannot tell you how I felt at this point as it was too emotional to put in to words, she looked defeated and I felt it. We sat there with her head on my lap for a long time, grieving together for our lost battle. I felt/still feel terribly guilty if we had helped sooner this may not have been the outcome, we will never know.
In this time the rest of the herd had gathered at the gate to the barn. It was like they knew. Berry had laid down long enough, we had to get her up, it took both of us to get her on her feet. She looked so sad. The herd were calling, we were not sure on what to do for the best, we moved the calf to the corner of the barn and Berry followed and stood by just looking blank at what could have been, we let the rest of the herd in and stood back to watch, each and every member of our herd went to the calf and then to Berry, they all understood, they could all feel her pain. Rose the leader let out a moo, the rest copied. It was an incredible thing to watch.
We took the calf away later that evening. Berry was very depressed it was very worrying we didn’t know if she was going to make it but there was nothing we could do. After a while she left the barn and followed the herd for grazing, she was a fantastic aunty to the other claves born that year, she really cared for them, to me it highlighted the dynamics of a herd, they all have a place and a job to do, and you can see the relationship they have between them.
I feel honoured to be a herdsman (woman). I respect my herd, people are always very quick to judge or comment when you take a cow to the abattoir and perhaps don’t fully understand the relationship between a farmer and their herd.
I know my cows have been well fed on lush green grass, I know if they have a limp we fix it, if they need a vet we call it, and as a result we produce some amazing meat to sell, but, it does not stop the guilt when you ask a cow to get on a trailer and he calmly walks on trusting you. When you look in the mirror as your driving them away to see the mothers of the steers calling at the gate. The mothers know what it means, it happens every year when there 2 year olds are big enough to go. Its heart wrenching but the steers, they have no idea, if we’re calm, they are calm. We always use an abattoir which is within an hour of us and a calm environment. What more can we do?
I have so many other stories to share about my cows and showing them , but I think this is enough for today.
|Posted on 6 July, 2016 at 14:55||comments (0)|
We have now lived in ‘the chalet’ for a whole a year!!!
I remember Bobby going to get it! I had found it on “Brackley online car boot” (facebook). It was free to a good home and to anyone who could collect by Saturday, I think we were 4th in line, so I wasn’t holding out much hope!! The problem for the people further up the list was the transport….. you needed a very large flatbed trailer, as the wheels on a static mobile home only purpose is to move in to place once on site! To get a lorry that big would cost around £600 and we would have to wait as they needed to give the police 10 day notice for moving a large load! The problem with this plan was that they had only given us 3 days to work out transport! Who knew it would be so hard to move a caravan!
My husband Bobby………. Think of a farmer in his early 30’s ……right that’s him, you have pictured him. He is a typical laid back, chilled out farmer with a slight mumble. ( a exemplary specimen of a farmer). But, he refuses to wear the check country shirt and moleskin trousers … he much prefers his billabong T-shirts and a pair of shorts!
So whilst sat in our cosy 3 bed averagely sized house Bobby came out with “ well I’ll just have to tow the bugger with the tractor”
And that’s what he did, we rang the police to check it was ok, we spoke to a ‘little bit dim’ person on the other end who said “well I’m sure it will be fine I’ll tell the sarge when she gets in” We took her name and time of phone call and took It as a green light to go……………
So Bobby his dad and my slightly reluctant brother set off to collect the caravan armed with a flashy light on my brothers van, the girls (6 +4) pink walkie talkies and a pack of matches.
After asking all the teachers at the local school to move their cars, they finally started on the very slow journey home towing the caravan the 11miles on the back roads in two and half hours, not bad timing for a caravan!!
She finally arrived home…………. What had we done!!! A 12 year old caravan which hadn’t been loved for a long time with smelly curtains and old (very old) white goods just sat in it. well I’ll tell you what I did , for a start I ignored any negative comments then donned my rubber gloves and striped it form floor to ceiling saving nothing and cleaning ever tiny bit I could get to…. its amazing what a lick of paint and fresh flooring can do. We were ready to move in ……
So then it was time for our biggest step to date, we put the house on the market. we were thinking if it didn’t sell for a couple of months, it would be a bonus………….It sold in 2 hours of being on the market!
That was it… 6 weeks later we moved us, the girls, the cat and all of our favourit things. (it's a small space, only the best things could stay) we sold evrything else, as it would have to go into storage and by the time would need it again..... it wouldnt go with our new home.
I cannot believe it has been a year, were all here in a humble abode. I can honestly say we all love it, I often ask the girls if they would prefer to live in a house and they say no we like it here,although tabs does mention a tv would be a nice! but I just remind her....
If we have everything in life, what would we have to look forward too?
|Posted on 26 June, 2016 at 16:15||comments (0)|
First I should explain. This year we have downed the numbers of the sheep to balance out the grazing now that the herd of Dexters (cows) are growing.
We now only have 10 sheep and dory ( she thinks she is a dog, but in fact a sheep!) This year we decided to shear the sheep our selves!!!! Highly hilarious but equally exhausting. A fellow small holder from down the road came to watch, have a go, we should have perhaps sold tickets to the event, it was that extremely entertaining!!!!!
So in true 30something year old style we decided it couldn’t be that hard, and of course with the help of you tube we did it!! The fleeces were not too bad but a few of our ewes did resemble poodles by the time we were done.
So we have now overcome the hurdle of shearing. although It did take an entire day. On the bright side we saved ourselves a grand total of £25! Money we will be most definitely investing next year!
Now . What to do with the Fleeces?.............
a) Maybe I could spin them …..but I cannot spin…yet…
b) We could sell them to central wool growers, although we would only get a £1 a fleece.
c) Take them to a fleece sale, for local spinners to buy….perfect
So I have all my fleeces fairly well rolled and in an old sand bag ready to go …………..and our fellow smallholder turns up for cuppa again……. “you’re not taking them like that are you?”
Well apparently you need to have them all rolled individually and beautiful trimmed ( no staw or sh*t on them ) so……..another days work and I have them rolled and tied in true farmer style ..with twine. So I load them all up and off we go…………..
I turn up at the sale feeling slightly smug that I knew what I was doing and didn’t look like a complete novice…… oh how I was wrong …. The couple that organise the event gave me an area so off I popped to un load the truck in to my area just as I had finished the old chap came up to me and politely said “you’ve not done this before have you?”
Slightly blushed from hauling the fleeces from the truck to the mat I stand up and admit “nope. First time, how can you tell?”
apparently twine on a fleece is a big no no! I had not rolled to the correct protocol either but luckily the man ‘Alan’ took pitty on me and helped me take off all the twine, which he did comment on how well I had tied them and I had enough string to go round the barn we were in!! Alan helped me reroll, my pretty sad looking fleeces, ( compared to all the rare breed pretty fleeces). This took us at least 40 minutes with the watchful eyes of other farmers, professional looking fleece sellers! Slightly shamed but, in true Jenna fashion, tried to make light of the situation and made sure they all knew the reason why you shouldn’t use twine…… if any gets in the machine at the wool factory it will shut down the whole factory for a day or until they find the tiny bit of twine…….apparently everyone knew this except me!
After buying Alan a cup of tea we talked sheep and cattle I decided to make an exit and return after the sale to collect hopefully any money made.
So I roll up at 1 o’clock to collect my money, sadly with all my effort and ‘Alans’ we did not sell a single fleece although the lady did say that not many people had turned up for fleeces that normally do! So I loaded up my fleeces once again and another lady came over to me to ask how the sale had gone for me……I explained I think she took pitty on me too and talked me through what a spinner was looking for and darker fleeces give a richer colour when dyed. She also explained what the ‘spinners’ were looking for in a fleece……… my Mule sheep have very few of these qualities.
On the bright side we exchanged numbers and she is going to teach me to spin... not a whole day wasted.