Update – Cows – and 200th Post!

This is my 200th post.  It seems only right to use it to mention the cows.

Actually there isn’t much to say.  They’ve been pretty relaxed over the last few months.  As far as I can tell they’re quite happy.  They have an odd relationship with Muga.  When they’re in the same field the three of them hang out together most of the day.  And yet when food arrives and Muga gets a bit uppity, Avarice especially backs away from him and becomes very skittish.  Hours later they’ll be placidly grazing in the same area.

I think we’ve got to a reasonable position with them where they’ll happily come to food, but not if we’re doing anything which might seem out of the ordinary, such as something which might mean catching them.  So we still don’t have a plan to TB test them.  We’ll just need to think upon it more…

Hungry hungry cows

We’ve put our cows on a little diet due to Wrath’s woes (http://wallowinginpoo.net/?p=546 ).  This has meant an increase in mooing, and some fussing when we deliver the hay.  At least that was the case until a couple of days ago.

I took the food out in the morning and instead of waiting for me by the fence they were right down the bottom of the field.  Even when they saw me they didn’t gallop over, they were rather more stately in their approach.  I didn’t think much about it at the time.

Later that day I looked over and realised that there was an extra fence between where I was standing and the cows.  This was because they’d broken into the end area with the south facing slope.  They were now gorging themselves on the grass and weeds in that area.  This was a positive in that it keeps the weeds under some control, but negative because it meant the fence had at least one hole in it, and they wouldn’t be losing weight.  On closer inspection it was clear they’d pushed at the fence until it had shredded.

Yesterday we repaired the fence, and put some extra electric fencing in front of it.  The cows have always been cautious around electric fencing so I have some hopes this will keep them out.  On the downside they may well start testing some other parts of the our fencing.

This morning they were back to being attentive when I was delivering the food, if not actually aggressively mooing at me:

Wrath’s troubles (don’t read if you’re squeamish)

The other morning Alex went out to feed the animals and noticed something rather alarming.  There seemed to be a red ball of stuff hanging out of Wrath’s back end.  It was the size of a small melon and had some blood coming off it.  This was not good at all.

She called the vet who said it sounded like a Vaginal Prolapse and that we’d need to put it back inside her, and quickly.  Unfortunately due to our ongoing handling issues this is not a trivial thing to do, and so some discussions were had about the use of a tranquiliser on a long stick and then a man with a dart gun.  The vet was going to ring someone she knew and get back to us.

I went out to see Wrath a little later and mostly she looked OK.  There was a bit of blood, but certainly nothing hanging out, as you can see below.  We rang the vet and called off the search for a tranquiliser dart man as clearly the required immediate treatment wasn’t necessary.

So I researched what might have caused it.  Normally this only happens when cows are calving, often near the due time.  However, it also mentioned that it tended to happen to cows who were older, and Wrath is starting to get on a bit, she’s thirteen or so now, and also those who were a little overweight.

Wrath and Avarice are both looking rather large at the moment, and I think both of them have really been stuffing their faces with grass over the summer.  They haven’t been up to see us much until recently, probably because the grass has been so good.

So she’s a fat, old cow!  Poor Wrath.

Stage one of the treatment to prevent further prolapses is to get Wrath’s weight down, which will mean feeding them less than we normally would over the winter.  They have plenty of reserves, especially around their rump areas, so they’ll be fine, but it does mean there will be a lot more mooing to show they are hungry.  Hopefully they’ll get down to a more reasonable size fairly quickly and we can then start giving them a little more feed to control the mooing.

Stage two is as yet undetermined.  Clearly we’re going to have to give them access to less grass over the summer, but that’s not entirely trivial as all our fields are a little large.  Still we’ll work something out!

Cows and Mud

Mud is a big thing at this time of year.  It’s everywhere.  Some days I come back in and I’m covered from head to toe in mud (and probably poo, but I try not to think of that).

I’ve already mentioned the pigs and their mud (http://wallowinginpoo.net/?p=497), but another animal has a fairly heavy impact on the mud.  The cows.

It’s not that quick a process, but if they spend a lot of time in a particular area on our pasture, they tend to churn it up quite badly.  An example of where they spend quite a bit of time, is in the feeding area.

Here they are waiting (and mooing in Avarice’s case) for food:

A few days later this is what the area they are standing on looks like:

To minimise the damage I move their main feeding spots around a few times over the winter.  But I always have to accept one area is going to be particularly bad as when the water freezes carrying the water out to them is such a slog that we tend to pick the nearest convenient area.

This is one of the reasons why many farmers keep their animals inside over the winter.

Wrath’s wound

Wrath and Avarice are getting a little more aggressive around food now as the food value of the grass continues to drop.  This means I spread out the feed for that field into quite a few piles to give the OAPs and hangers on a chance at it before the two cows hoover it all up.

As Wrath ran to the food this morning, mooing triumphantly (possibly), I thought she’d opened up the wound on her udder again.  I had been walking away from them, but quickly turned back to investigate.  It turned out to be a maple leaf which had become attached to her.  The wound itself has healed up nicely, with only a small scar to show where it was:

Wrath update

I really shouldn’t have mentioned mud. After last night’s deluge it was a combination between marsh walking and swimming this morning. Still, the ducks and geese seem happy enough!

Wrath’s wound is in much better shape, and I’m only checking it now, and not trying to spray it.  This has certainly helped to calm her down – though she has become somewhat demanding of food, as has Avarice.  Given they are in a field of rich grass it’s a bit cheeky, but that’s life (or maybe greedy Dexter cows?)!

Here’s how her wound looked a couple of days ago, as you can see it’s scabbed nicely:

Fencing with Cows

In the early days we did a lot of fencing ourselves.  Even after lots of practice we never really got very good at it.  Partially it’s not having the right tools, and partially lack of patience.  We’ve since had quite a bit of fencing done properly, which is always satisfying to see (if a little galling).  One of the bits which hasn’t been re-done separates the narrow field with the cows in it from what was to be my south facing slope, and is instead a little bit of wild ground.  This morning it was clear this fencing had failed.

Avarice had somehow got through and was now staring at me from the bottom of the slope.  And then mooing for food.  She wasn’t interested in coming back either.  I quickly doscovered that a stretch of the fence which had looked a little weakened and pulled down a couple of weeks ago had been completely pushed down (shows that I should actually do something when I see fencing in that state!).  Now the area she was in has pretty lush grass and probably does need to be cropped down, but I had two concerns, a) Wrath might want to join her daughter and catch her wounded udder on the pushed down fence and make it worse, and b) the fencing right at the back is only three lengths of barbed wire, not enough to stop the sheep should they really decide they want to get through.  The fence clearly needed fixing:

After sorting out a few other things I collected my old trusty set of fence repairing tools:

  • a hammer
  • some fence staples (two sizes, one big and one small)
  • a wire cutter
  • a penknife
  • a bucket of feed

This last is very important, both to persuade any wandering animals back in to the correct field, and to distract any inquisitive animals while I’m bent over hammering nails in.

Fortunately we have a few reasonable lengths of fence remaining and I grabbed one which looked like it would do the job, and headed down to the broken fence.  When I got there some of the sheep had also gamboled over into the slope area, but they were easy to persuade back with the bucket.  Wrath had not crossed the line, probably in fear of her udders, but Avarice was nowhere to be seen.  Then I heard some almost plaintive mooing, and saw Avarice was in with the OAPs.  Somehow she’d got through the fence separating the south facing slope from the big field as well.  Now I had the fear that the fields were effectively connected again and all my efforts to sort the sheep had been wasted.  A quick count assured me that no sheep had yet figured out the route, so I followed the fence along to see what Avarice had done.

The cows are quite big.  When they lean against the fence they can cause the fence staples to pop out.  I think they’ve realised this can be useful…  Down the bottom of the fence Avarice had managed to push through and loosen four panels of mesh.  This meant she could get underneath it and into the field, but it left the mesh in place, looking like it was still fixed which is why the sheep hadnt yet challenged it.  I’ll take that as almost good news!  A lesson here – fix broken fencing as soon as possible as there are always consequences if you dont.

I coaxed Avarice through the gate and into the south facing slope area, and then attempted to coax her back into the small field.  Suddenly the crushed fence which she’d happily walked over earlier in the day was an issue, and she refused to cross.  Here she is just testing the line:

Eventually I charmed her over with a combination of wit and the feed bucket.  I then set about putting in the new fencing.  I didn’t have any strainers (required to make the fence nice and taut), so I decided to go for my standard bodge approach – put the new fence over the existing.  Five minutes of rolling out, doing some manual straining (pulling it one way as I hammer the staples in – better than nothing), and a lot of hammering, and the fence was fixed.  Well, hopefully it will keep the animals out until the spring when we’ll probably open up the whole slope area.  This is what bodged fencing looks like:

Satisfied I’d done enough for the moment, I went down to the other end of the south facing slope and fixed the damage Avarice had done.  This just involved hammering in a load more staples.  Ironically this was some of the new fence we’d recently had done properly, so I felt a little less disappointed with my own fencing efforts!




Dancing with Wrath

This morning’s feed of the animals went very well.  I managed to get a substantial number of the as yet unsorted sheep to come into the channel between the pigs, so in a couple of days I should be able to catch them all and complete the sorting (the girl lambs to go in with the cows, and the boys to stay with the OAPs, but be marked so we know who is what).

After that I went out to see if I could get close to Wrath as I really wanted to spray her wound again with anti-biotic.  As preparation I put down some feed for the sheep and Avarice, to keep them distracted, and then I carefully approached Wrath.  She wasn’t interested in walking towards me this morning, so I traipsed down the whole length of the field, feed bucket in hand.  When I got within ten foot she was still rather nervous and at first wouldn’t come near me, so I held out a handful of feed and she nearly took my hand off getting to it.

I put the bucket down and gave her another handful, and then dropped my hand she started eating straight out of the bucket.  This allowed me to crouch down and move round to get in position to spray.  Wrath took a couple of sidesteps around the bucket, keeping her head within range of the food, and I managed to move forward and spray the wound.  Wrath skipped around a couple more paces, with her head still in the bucket, and I once again darted forward to spray the wound.  We went dancing round like this until we’d rotated around the bucket three or four times, and I’d managed to get a decent amount of spray onto Wrath’s wound.  By this point the food was virtually gone and Wrath decided she’d had enough fun dancing and started to move off.  I gave her one last handful of food and then backed off.

The wound looked much better, it’s starting to scab over properly, so hopefully it’s going to heal properly.

Wrath Wound Woes

On Sunday when we were dealing with the second phase of moving sheep around we also did a quick check on the cows.  Avarice was fine, but Wrath seemed to have a big wound on her udder.  Closer inspection showed it to be even nastier than we originally thought  (picture below, but don’t look if you’re squeamish).

Alex was immediately on the phone to the vet.  They said that given Wrath was still up and about, and eating, then it was ok to leave it a day or two before they visited (to avoid emergency Sunday charges) but they thought our idea of spraying it with anti-biotic blue spray was a good start.  Now Wrath has always been skittish at the best of times, and it was quite clear she didn’t want us getting too close to the wound.  After a little patience, with Alex holding a bucket of food and giving handfuls to Wrath while I crept round, I’d managed to spray it a little, but not as much as we’d have liked.

We also walked all around the field to try and work out what had caused the wound.  There were some fencing supplies in piles in various places, but none looked like they had been involved.  Having decided that getting them out of the field was sensible we spent an hour or so loading up the trailer and driving them out.

The next morning we coaxed Wrath into the area between the pigs, which has a nice channel which we thought would make it easier for the vet to look at her.  Unfortunately the vet didn’t make it to us until the afternoon, by which time Wrath was rather grumpy, and not keen to let anyone get close to her.

The vet could only get a look at a bit of a distance and was a little unhappy at our lack of proper cow handling facilities – we do have a crush which could potentially hold the cows, but I’ve only ever managed to get Avarice in there.  She advised us to try and clean the wound, and to spray it further.  We were told to contact them again if it gets worse (or I guess doesn’t get better) then we’d need to consider something a bit more complicated.  We’d either need to get someone to come and knock Wrath out with a dart gun, or someone else with the kind of herding paraphenalia required to get Wrath into a crush.  To cheer us up she said that if it got really bad then we might have to consider putting her down.

We managed to spray her wound again this morning, though she was not at all happy and was even more skittish.  So much so that I decided it best not to try to spray her tonight, and get her to be a little calmer with us just feeding her before trying again tomorrow.  Surprisingly when I went to feed her she was happy for me to get quite close to the wound, but I suspect it’s because I was on my own – and she does tend to be worse around multiple people.  The wound seemed to be looking a bit better and has started to dry out, which is positive.

After the ram dying I was hoping for some positive news, but sadly not yet.