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).