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Cows Tucking Into Haylage

Cows and haylage

Following on from our Sunday morning “board” meeting and our decisions on where to site our cow management area, today we moved to phase 2.  This was made possible by the speedy delivery of a haylage spike for the tractor that I had ordered on Saturday.  Our original plan had been to roll these bales of haylage to where they are needed.  Ha – ha!  They weigh nearly 500Kg.

haylage bale on tractor
haylage bale on tractor

I had picked up two bales of haylage on Saturday and they were parked on the ground.  I assembled the spike and fitted it to the tractor.  A practice run moving a bale of straw (a big round one, not a small one) went well.  So, I moved onto the haylage.  My first attempt failed, I hadn’t lined the spike up very well and the tractor couldn’t lift it.  I tried again, got it right and off I went with the large bale down to the cow field.

I put the bale down on an area of track so the cows would have hard standing when they eat.  Much better than standing in six inches of mud.  I took the tractor back and then, with Nicole being back from work, we had lunch.

Nicole with haylage
Nicole with haylage

After lunch, Nicole and I went down to make it all ready.  We stripped the plastic and netting off the bale and tried to tip it onto it’s base.  It seemed so easy on This Farming Life on the TV.  We had a go and, having managed to move it at least 2 inches, we stopped to ponder and then I headed off to get the tractor.  That made life much easier and with a gentle nudge from the front loader, the bale was in place in no time.

Next, we rolled the feeder down the hill, over bumpy frozen ground and icy sheets.  At least it was downhill!

And now it was time for the best bit – we went off to get the cows.  They had, of course, migrated to the top of the field, as far away as possible.  They do like it up there.  Nevertheless, armed with samples of haylage, we soon had their attention and they started to follow us down.  Now, Bluebell and Ivor are calm as you like.  But Texa gets very excited and does an excellent impression of a charging, bucking bronco.  She usually skids to halt beside us looking slightly surprised and also gazing intently at any food we might be carrying.  I dropped a little haylage which kept her happy and we kept going.  After that was eaten, Texa bucked and charged again causing  Nicole to drop all her bundle of haylage.  Texa doesn’t mean to hurt us, she’s just excited and happy, but when you are standing on an icy hill watching her careering towards you, you do worry she might misjudge slightly!

Texa tucking in
Texa tucking in

Anyway, we soon had Texa down at the feeding station.  Of course, Bluebell and Ivor had found some tasty grass so off I went to fetch them.  I persuaded Bluebell to follow me without too much trouble.  She loves haylage.  Then, we heard a plaintive “moo” from behind the wall.  Ivor had stayed behind and was wondering where everyone had gone.  Nicole went off and fetched him.

As for the haylage, the cows love it.  The best part is that Nicole will no longer have to lump a bale of hay across the field every morning.  Plus, we should have enough hay left for the sheep now for the rest of winter.  This huge bale should last the cows a week or so.  And of course, they won’t go hungry – they have as much food as they need, on demand.

tucking into haylage
Ivor, Bluebell and Texa tucking into haylage
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Happy New Year

Auchenstroan snow

Happy New Year to all our readers.  Hope it’s a great one.

With Christmas and New Year past, we are now making our plans for 2018.  We are looking more and more into natural farming and managing the soil.  I say “we”, the bulk of the research is being carried out by Nicole who has her head buried in books by Graham Harvey (Grass Fed Nation being her favourite).

With this in mind, we are trying to move away totally from bagged feeds, especially those that are grain based.  We are alarmed by stories of how factory farming is now using glyposphate to dry out grains prior to harvesting along with various pesticides.  These deadly chemicals are leaking into both animal feeds and also the human food chain.  You can give the animals a great place to live, but if they are eating crap food, then ultimately, that’s what we can end up eating!

So, we have earmarked an area to grow sugar beet and this will replace sheep nuts next year.  We are looking for a local source of waste vegetables which we would feed to our pigs (though we may be taking a year off from raising pigs this year).  We’d need around 150Kg a week so it would need to be a pretty good source.

In the meantime, work goes on at Auchenstroan.  It is our first winter here and it’s a proper winter with ice and snow.  We really like the cold spells.  The mud freezes hard and so the animals can get around more easily (and are not up to their knees in mud).  It’s dry and the cows are particularly thankful for that as they have no field shelter.  And it makes it easier for us to zoom around on the quadbike stocking up the hay where it’s needed.  The only problem is that the water troughs freeze over, so we need to keep de-icing them.

Today, we worked out where to put our cow management area.  Ivor has his operation booked for 1st February.  We need to have him halter trained and used to the cattle crush by than.  We also have purchased some large bales of haylage (the animals have been motoring through the hay this winter).  They are seriously heavy and I have had to order a tractor bale spike so that we can move them.

Anyway, having put the cattle crush in a field at great risk (of the tractor sliding down a hill), today we moved it (at great risk) and we are really pleased with our new set up.  It’s accessible for us, the vet and the cows. We can also put their haylage feeder there so it will be easier to train Ivor as he’ll be standing next to the crush munching away.

In the summer, we will build a shed next to it and have a proper cow area which means they will have warm and toasty winter quarters.  Knowing highland cows, they will probably still sleep out rough (unlike our sheep who are virtually living in their shed at the moment coming out only to browse their hay racks).