Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Rowan Skye for Effie

Well Effie did it again, she gave birth to a little heifer calf this time she was kept in a week before the birth.
We did not want to have the same shenanigans as we did the last time when she gave birth to Buster out on the common grazing's, that was an event that happened almost to the day last year under my posting "Wild West Hero".
We noticed that she was letting down at the weekend, that's when the bones start to loosen so the calf can get out, she was also putting an udder on, so in she went to the calving pen.
Effie is a cow that likes to think she is boss, she shakes her head and snorts at you when you go to fasten or unfasten her chain.
Her bark is much worse than her bite, unless like any of them they have a calf then the hormones kick in and they become unpredictable.
Even though you may have been around the same animals all their lives, they change when young are born, much like any mother they would die to protect their young.
Effie has always had character, when I first saw her she was 6 months old about 8 years ago, at the Torlundy auction mart, we were not supposed to be there that day as we were not selling, but my husband wanted to go and see what the prices were like.
Well Effie came running into the ring with fire and temper in her, there was not many people there that day it was rather quite for some reason, or most of the buyers had gone for tea.
My husband was sat at the front talking to a couple of friends & neighbours, like they do at these events, talk about the weather the price of feed and fertiliser you know that sort of thing.
I was sat at the back of the auction ring on the top row to get a good view of the cattle coming through and take a note of the prices for the weight and breed, this was to compare what we may or may not get at the next sale, more like a rough estimate really.
Anyway Effie came running in to the ring, a beautiful Rowan coloured calf with a cute face, she slammed on the anchors and looked around she started mooing loudly and running around, she stopped and stared up at me and started calling again, fate took a hand in Effie's future, I started to bid on her, we had no intentions of going to market to buy but I could not let her pass by, someone else started to bid, the price went up slowly, but I got her for £110.00 which was a bargain at that time.
The auctioneer asked who's name? I said my husbands name, my husband then swung around in mid conversation and looked at me as though to say you never did did you?
Well I did, she came from Skye, the man who owned her was and is the nicest person you could ever meet, he asks me about her every time we bump into one another at the sales or shows, I give him a progress report on her births and babies, he feels the same way we do he loves his animals and treats them like family.
Effie came home and grieved for her mum for nearly a week, nothing we could do appeased her, once she settled down she turned out to be a wonderful cow.
She nearly got her marching orders after last years near catastrophe, but we relented and let her have one more chance, as you do when you love someone or something.
Effie gave birth on Monday night, we went in to check her about 6:30pm she was pacing about, she does not like you watching her so we left her to it for a couple of hours.
We went back in about 8:00pm and there she was a beautiful Rowen coloured heifer the spitting image of Effie.
We did not stay long just enough time to check to make sure she and baby were fine, give her some extra nourishment and water as she gets agitated.
We left them to it...... in the morning Effie and calf were up and watching the door, calf had been fed and washed spic and spam by mum.
She might be crabbed and moody but she looks after her calves and makes an excellent job of them.
We decided to call the calf Skye, as her mum is from Skye, Skye's father is a Limousin Bull called Ronwick Iceman, the last calf Effie had was also from the same bull we called him Buster, he is near Elgin and has grown in to a wonderful beast, he is being finished off at the moment to go to market for food, that is the part I hate so much, letting them go for feed, but that is our way of life and the boy calves unless they are pedigree always go to market for meat after all the nation has to be fed.
I will post some pictures of Effie's Rowan Skye that is when I can get near her.
When I posted about Effie the last time and the tagging rules stating that you had to tag in 3 days of the calf being born, the rules have been relaxed a little as so many people were getting injured, now you are allowed 21 days if you have a cow that is wild, but you have to notify the authorities which cow is involved and so on, more paperwork!!!!
Anyway crabbed as she is we still love her, and I don't care what anyone says, she has been a good cow, pop's her calves out with no problem, fate took hold of our hands that day and put us all together, my husband always says "what's put out for you will not go by you", neither did Effie ;-)

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Jinny's AI

Jinny our Limousin cow was bulling this week.
This means she is in season and ready to be served.
To recognise when a cow is in season is not to difficult even for a novice.
A cow shows signs of this by jumping on the rear of another cow, or mounting them as they say, the cow in season usually stands for the others to jump her.
When there are a few of them together it can be difficult at first because it is like a wrestling match to see who can get there first.
This usually occurs in the day time or early hours of the morning.
Later in the day things get a little less hectic, and the cow in season sometimes pairs off with another cow and they spend most of the day jumping one another.
We once had a heifer that took it upon herself to run all the way up the road to our neighbours looking for the bull, luckily for us he was not at home that day, as she was to young to be in calf as yet.
Once they get the notion in to their heads it is hard to get them to do anything you want because nature says find the bull, anyway it took us most of the morning to get her home that day.
But the next month she came into season she paraded herself at the gate like a little floozy taunting the bull next door, next thing he jumped the gate and did the dirty deed, we had to get the vet to come down an give her what they call the morning after pill for cows, she was only 12 months old at the time, which is far to young to put in calf, although there are those out there that think this is okay to do, but at what cost, maybe a calf or both can be lost at birth.
Well back to Jinny she was ready for the bull, we called the AI man who comes up from Fort William 40 miles away to do the deed.
He usually comes down to our place between 8pm & 10pm depending on when she first showed signs of bulling, or how busy he is at the time, sometimes he has come up at 6am the next morning the window is only open for about 18hours at a push, once it is shut that's it for another 21-28 days.
Well our AI man arrives, I have sandwiches, scones and a flask of tea waiting for him as he is a busy man sometimes it must be hard for him to stop and eat sensibly.
We already have the cow in season ready and waiting in the crush, sometimes this is easy to do sometimes it is a bit of a nightmare depending on which cow is going into the crush.
Usually we can tempt them in with a bucket of nuts other times they have to be run in between the gates, where a metal bar is slipped in behind them to stop them turning back or kicking.
Once she is in the crush we can relax a bit, we spend a little while passing the time of day and putting the world to rights whilst the AI man has a break and a cuppa.
We then decide which bull we would like our cow to be served by, Ronwick Iceman was our choice, a good strong Limousin bull.
The AI man has a large tank like a fat old milk churn full of liquid Nitrogen which keeps the semen straws frozen safely in the back of his pickup, it has 6 compartments inside the churn and each compartment is full of a wide variety of bulls, all waiting to be used to bring life into the world, you can still get semen straws from bulls that died up to 20 years ago as long as they are kept in the liquid Nitrogen, science is a wonderful thing especially for people like us, where keeping a bull is not an option, because of limited space, neighbouring bulls and extra feeding.
Anyway the AI man gets to work, firstly he will put his elbow length gloves on and put a lubricant on his glove fingers, he then inserts his gloved and lubricated fingers in to the cows rectum very slowly, this is to encourage her to empty her bowels this makes things a little easier when inserting the straw.
Once she has emptied her bowels, he puts his hand inside her rectum again up to below the elbow, the has the seamen straw inside a long thin metal syringe type instrument, which he inserts in to the vulva, one he finds the Fallopian tube through the rectum wall he inserts the syringe and pushed the end of the syringe to release the sperm.
He gently removes his hand and that is what we hope is job done, unless she repeats, which means we have to go through the same process all over again, but this is not as common as you would think.

Jinny in the crush head secured and bar behind her.
This stops her moving about and kicking.

Hand inserted into the rectum to clear out her bowels.
This allows better access to the uterus.

Syringe is inserted slowly using the hand inside the rectum
feeling through the rectum wall
to guide the syringe into the correct position.

Syringe is maneuvered into the correct position.
Then the plunger is pressed to release the sperm.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

What a difference the day makes

Well we are flying through February, the weather has been absolutly beautiful for the past couple of weeks, well really dry anyway.
Some days have been really cold, but at least it has not rained that is until today.
We have had a busy time, the other night we stood out in the garden and watched the sun setting, it was a funny kind of sky, it appeared to be all yellowish in colour, it felt like we were in for a big storm, but nothing happened.
I posted a few pictures of our sheep on the web site the other day, I have a few of the cattle to do also, it is just finding the time to do these things.
Maybe once the cows go out in the spring things will quieten down a little bit.
Speaking of cows, they have spent the odd couple of nights out already this past couple of weeks, there must be something tasty down on the Monteach Mhor the gaelic name for our common grazings. (It means Big Peat Bog pronounced monchuck more) well anyway they have been out and it is good to get a little restbite from cleaning out sheds everynow and then.
But it has been really cold through the night, so the food to them must take priority over the cold.
My Heifer Molly lost her calf, the other day, it was such a struggle for her, he was a large Simmental calf, we had to get the vet out to help deliver him because she and we could not do it any more.
The Vet had special approval to come through the road works as the road has been closed every day for the past couple of weeks, because they are building a double track road instead of the old single track.
Unfortunatly it was to late for Molly, we worried about her in case she would not get up after the time she spent trying to deliver him, but she is a strong young cow and she got up after the vet gave her some injections.
Her mother Angela lost a calf also, a beautiful Limousin heifer with a white patch on her face, we called her Chainer which is gaelic for Fire.
But for some reason she would not suck and her mother did not want to feed her, we tried everything to keep her going, I sat with her from midday to late in the night, before she died.
I am heartbroken, so I will not dwell on it to much, because I find it hard to put it into words.
You put your heart and soul into them and you lose them with in a blink of and eye. Some people could not care less if their animals were well looked after or fed correctly, to them they are just a piece of meat with a price on their head.
Angela has been back and forward greiving for her lost child for the past couple of days, she will grieve less in time, just as we do.
Time is a great healer, and time is stretching on now, the days are getting longer, our Crocus's and Daffodil's have all sprouted up and flowering at the moment.
It's good to see a difference in the day.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Annual Sheep Judging Event

We went to our local Auction Mart last Friday in Torlundy, to take part in the Sheep Judging Competition.
It was a horrid night when we set off from Arisaig the snow was falling quite fast, but by the time we got down to Lochailort about 8 miles away the weather cleared up, so it was a really enjoyable ride down to Fort William.

It was a little windy coming into Glenfinnan but nothing to bad, which makes a change from the past couple of weeks.

We got to Torlundy about 7:40 there was quite a large crowd of people there, some of the old die hards and a lot of youngsters, it is good to see the young ones taking part in the local events after all they are the future Farmers and Crofters, they need all the encouragement they can get.

These local events are not supported as well as they used to be, people never seem to be able to make the time as they have other comitments, all work and no play makes for a very dull land boring life.

The Judge was Mrs Rosemary MacLachlan from Strontian, the sheep were mainly Black face, there was an entry of Mules and an entry of Texals.
The event was really entertaining, you have to pick the same as the judges choice to enable you to get high scores.
There is a flock of 4 sheep in the ring say 4 rams, 4 ewes or 4 tups and so on.
Each sheep in the group of 4 has a coloured band.
ie: 1 will be Green which represents X, Yellow represents Y, Red represents A and Blue represents B.
For every one you match with the judges choice the more points you will get at the end of each round.
Well I managed to come 4th overall, and first in the women's section, which I was not expecting, I thought I had fluffed it, so I received the winners shied and a bottle of wine, which was really nice.
My husband won the hamper in the raffle draw, so we had a change in forture for once.
It's is nice to win something for your efforts even if it is only a rosette, but I was pleased, my father was also pleased, as he is a member of the Black Face Sheep Society, he said "Well all my talking about the sheep must have stuck in your head somewhere" so I think I will give him the credit for winning the Sheep Judging Competition.
Congratulations Dad for helping me to be a winner and making me what I am today.

31 turbulant days of January

Well January is over with no sign of a let up in the weather.
We have had rain storms, thunder and lightning, snow, frost and back to the rain storms.
When will it all end, the land cannot stand much more of this, it is like a giant sponge, because the ground is very peaty, you sink down to the top of your wellingtons.
There is nothing more infuriating that trying to pull your foot out of the ground and you end up leaving your wellington behind, it is so energy draining when you are trying to do something.

The Burns (Streams) have been flooded most of the time, there is so much water coming off the mountain behind they just cannot take the water away fast enough.

The cows have spent most of the time in this month because most of them have young calves, or are about to calve.
They are better off in the dry sheds and not standing out mooning about. (No Pun intended)
They managed to get into the Croft park twice this past fortnight and still to this day we do not know how they managed to get through a gate that is secured, we think someone opened it and let them into the park, unfortunatly for us, the hay shed was open, they managed to get in and totaly desimate the front rows of hay bales, twice.

The price of feed any kind of feed has gone through the roof this past few months, I do not know how other people are coping, the consentrates are almost £60.00 a tonne above what they were last year, fertilizer has gone up to £300.00 per tonne someone is making a lot of money out of the agricultural sector, and it sure isn't us.

We had lightning storms a couple of weeks ago during the night, they were right over the house, I have never heard anything as loud when it banged, the collie dog was so frightened he nearly burst the bedroom door down to get in, he jumped on the bed and dived in between my husband and I and could not be moved for anything, what's the old saying two's company three's a croud and it sure was crowded in there.

We spent most of last weekend cleaning out the calves shed, it is no fun when it is wet and windy, it had to be done by pitch fork and took a good half a day to do, I now have muscles on top of the muscles I did not know I had.

Bob the Seagull has been back a few times, he is looking rather thin, he comes back for a feed when nothing else is available, we have two resident Crows that do not miss anything, as soon as they see me throw something out for Bob they are on it like vultures and do not take one piece at a time they shove as much in their beaks as they can carry, one gathers the other chases Bob, I hate them they are just greedy theives, none of the other birds get anything when they are around.
The fat chaffinches seem to do well out of the cows left over seeds from the hay, they never complain. We have a Robin that sits on the windowsill outside the kitchen tapping to let you know he is there, if the back door is left open he sneaks into the back hall where the dry dog food is kept in a bin and steals some, thank god the crows have not figured that out yet, give them time I am sure it will not be long.
Anyway we have had 31 turbulant January days things can only get better.