September Newsletter

Here we are at the end of another month. Our small patch of green is looking particularly lush and we have some very pregnant cows and heifers. It has been wonderful to have James home to help me for the whole month, but he has now returned to work.

Cattle News:
This month we have vaccinated for pinkeye and used a pour-on fly and lice treatment in the hope of controlling flies.
Whilst cattle were gathered in the yards we also took the time to detangle the highlands coats and remove as many dags as possible. A couple of calves received a rough shearing, but I am certain they are grateful for it.
Scarlet, the Belted Galloway cross was also weaned. This time we trialled a nose ring weaner and so far so good. Humbug appears to be drying up and we have not seen Scarlet attempt to suckle any more.

Two new calves were born to Belted Galloways Sambuca and Liquorice. Magpie arrived on Father’s Day and Bracegirdle on the 15th of September. Both are bull calves and have been very mobile within the first few days of calving. They are doing well and I can already see the growth on them.

Magpie, 1 day old.

Magpie, 1 day old.

Bracegirdle, a few hours old.

Bracegirdle, a few hours old.

In the meantime our highland girls Enid, Jessica, Sophie, Chenoa, Charmaine, Guenivere and Kayla continue to grow outwards with calf! We can expect some of these early-mid October, with one or two forecast for November. Kayla has begun to ‘bag up’ but the others haven’t started just yet. All are looking soft around the tail end (which is the nicest way I can put it).

Some very pregnant ladies!

Some very pregnant ladies!

A few more new arrivals to the farm came this month with the addition of a small flock of sheep and two alpacas. The sheep are a meat breed of black faced suffolk and we are on the lookout for a ram in the hope of turning off a small pen each year. I have a habit of naming our stock, but with sheep I can hardly tell them apart. James and I settled on the generic Shaun and Shirley. As a result we have 11 Shirleys (ewes) and 4 Shauns (wethers)!

Our new stock.

Our new stock.

The alpaca were purchased because we have 3 dogs where we live. Alpaca make excellent guard animals and will fend off dogs and foxes to protect the sheep. James and I settled on two females, Lucy Lou and Gemma, so that we could keep our options open if we wanted to breed them in the future. All have settled in well now, after Mabelline chased them around for a few days.

The last week of September saw James and I say goodbye to two of the boys. Blackadder we put down and disposed of due to his increasingly aggressive behaviour and lack of condition in his back end. He wasn’t a good bull and had become an extra head eating grass that we didn’t need.
We then sent Adam, one of the steers, off to the abbatoir. He is three years old and will be hung and butchered for our own consumption. James has given me a few weeks to clear out the deep chest freezer of the last steer. Look out for our future posts on how well he eats!

Adam's last day.

Adam’s last day.

Weather:
Septembers rainfall was 51.4mm at East Sale Airport. This location is fairly close to the farm and provides a good analogue for our weather in all but the most patchy and scattered events. The mean for September is 51.7mm so we should consider it to have been an average sort of a month. The mean maximum temperature this month was 18.4°C. This is significantly higher than the usual monthly average of 17°C and as a consequence we have seen excellent pasture growth. We did see a number of drying days with warm temperatures, strong winds and low humidity towards the end of the month and so we will need to keep a close eye on the pasture we have set aside for hay. So that it can still be bailed with good palatability and fodder value.
Farm maintenance:
This month’s maintenance focus was mainly on weeds and some additional fencing. On arrival of the sheep it was apparent that whilst the boundaries were ring locked, the internal fences of where we are living were not. Subsequently James and I spent a morning chasing sheep in circles and the next two days ring locking fences.

Mabelline inspecting James' fencing work.

Mabelline inspecting James’ fencing work.

Other News:
With the increase in temperatures, wind and the loom of a failed Spring James and I rigged up a dripper system for the orchard. This is a simple system consisting of 13mm polypipe connected to a storage tank. Gravity drives the water around the pipe and a dripper is placed near the trunk of each tree. Once a week we will refill the storage tank using bore water.

James and I have been rather social this month. We had the pleasure of attending a VFF (Victorian Farmer’s Federation) livestock dinner on the 24th September in Bairnsdale. We met a really enthusiastic and approachable group of people and thoroughly enjoyed the talks on biosecurity and the role of social media in promoting a business. It was food for thought and down the track I hope to expand our social presence to promote our farm.
The biosecurity talk took us through the spread of foot and mouth disease in the UK and the methods undertaken to control it. I wasn’t a farmer back then, but I do remember the events and the horrific scenes as you drove past paddocks with carcasses piled high and smoking. Even as a school goer I appreciated how bad it was. What the talk highlighted though, and what I never realised, was the wider spread preventative culling which took place, as well as the cost and impact to the farmers who couldn’t sell their healthy animals to the market. That in a way was much scarier.

On a lighter note, last Saturday we took a trip down to Melbourne to see the Royal Melbourne Show. This year was exciting as the highlands were the feature breed! There was an excellent turnout with close to 30 head of highland cattle taking the stands in the prime spot. The judge was Cameron Ormiston, who is the herdsman for the Royal fold at Balmoral Castle. We felt the breed was well represented with a diverse range of colours, ages and genders being presented. Well done to the winners of each class – they were well deserved. James and I also attended the annual general meeting and dinner in the evening. This gave us a good chance to meet our fellow breeders and make some new friends.

Highlands in the ring.

Highlands in the ring.

More highlands in the ring.

More highlands in the ring.

Prime spot!

Prime spot!

Sadly this month I did not get around to completing any blog updates – but rest assured I will.. soon! I have additional cattle photos to put up, a few to take down and James and I are toying with the idea of a new page detailing some more science behind what we are doing on the farm.

I enjoy writing our bitesize blogs and monthly news updates and hope that people are interested in seeing how we grow our farm and business. If you like the pretty pictures then I have an instagram and deviantART account which mainly gets used for photos of the cattle. You are welcome to follow!

A colourful cow from the show.

A colourful cow from the show.

A well dressed bull from the show.

A well dressed bull from the show.

The Look Ahead:
– Keeping an eye on the grass for hay cutting
– Calving from the highlands
– General upkeep and stock rotations
– Blog updates!

– Rachael

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