The cattle arrive

By Jane Hulton-Harrop

And then the cattle arrived…

It was getting dark and raining. Our initial excitement did wane a little as we waited and waited getting wetter and wetter.

Then we found that the articulated lorry had taken a wrong turn at the last junction, so whilst we could see orange lights across the fields, they were not coming our way.

One of our party set off to help and finally, we were able to back the tail gate into the gateway and let the animals into our ‘entry paddock’ after their long journey from Scotland.

Cow delivery
The next morning, we were anxious to see how they had reacted to their new home.

We needn’t have worried, they looked calm and settled, tucking into the fresh grass.

Cows grazing entry paddock
After a day or two in our ‘entry paddock’ we began our grazing plan in earnest, creating approximately 2 ha paddocks to be grazed for 3 or 4 days so that moves could take place twice a week in accordance with our holistic context and grazing plan.

The cattle seemed quiet and content so we were too.

Contented cows

Our planned paddock grazing continued with Lizzie collecting data at every change in grazing.

It all was going well and then the -5C hit us rather unexpectedly.

The biggest problem in any paddock had been the provision of water. Now, suddenly, everything was frozen. Tanks, feedpipes…what were we to do?

Detailed grazing plans needed to be put on hold whilst we devised a plan to T into a known unfrozen pipe to which we could attach a drag trough. The cattle were moved to a field we had thought we might ‘save’ for calving but needs must and actually, calving was a long way off.

The cattle were moved to our Pollardine hay field where water through a drag trough had been made available and remained available thanks to an enforced overflow; running water doesn’t freeze. They grazed here quite happily until the thaw allowed the resumption of our grazing plan.

Drag trough overflowing

From now on we resolved to keep better in touch with the weather predictions. It didn’t turn out to be quite that simple but the provision of water, as ever, was our main concern.

However, a more serious problem suddenly needed our urgent attention. A cow seen down and on her side at 8.30 one morning, lead to an urgent call to the vet. She was treated for magnesium deficiency, as was expected, though a rather strange time of year for this problem to occur. A busy day caring for a poorly cow ensued.

Poorly cow
With the help of our keepers we roped and rolled her over to an easier getting up position but she was still stuck in a muddy hole. We propped her with straw and towelled her vigorously to try and stop her shivering, wrapping her in blankets to hopefully give her warmth and comfort.
Cow in blankets
When we returned a few hours later, she was facing the other way….. she must have been up and turned around! We were excited. But not as excited as we were when at 9pm by the bike headlights, we saw she was standing and could walk!! Fantastic we thought, let’s let her back to join the others, find water and her calf so we walked her through to rejoin the herd. As I biked off to fetch something, I heard a dreadful cry from Lizzie. Some other cow had butted our recoveree and she was down on her side again. Desperate to protect and help her I asked the keeper again for help.

Albeit in the dark, we managed somehow to sit up the 700kg body, wedge her to a sitting position, give her blanket cover and electric fence her away from harm from others. She had hay, water and shelter. All we could do now was hope throughout a sleepless night.

Before light we made our way towards her pretty frightened about what we might see in the headlights of the bike. We saw her standing. And she moved towards us with our water and nuts. What a moment that was. She was up and okay. After a few tears, it was time for a cup of tea!

Once it was light, we walked her across the next field into our building where she could recover gently in peace with lots of hay, straw, nuts and glucose water.

Poorly cow in shed
My goodness, we had saved her. She’s back in the field now with the rest of the herd with something of a ‘leader syndrome’…. 435, a cow never to be forgotten!
435 grazing again