Yesterday James and I spent most of the day at the farm. It was a very pleasant and sunny 20 degrees and thankfully I remembered to put my suncream on. It amazes me that after 3 1/2 years in Australia my pale, English skin is still virtually white. That is until I want to go anywhere nice, in which case I burn and end up with a red farmers tan that as you can imagine, looks great with a dress!!
Anyway back to the cattle. We gathered up the stock and did some of the regular drenching and fly treatment using pour-on products. It has been close to 6 weeks since we last used the arrest and I had noted recently that a couple of the Murray Greys were beginning to stream from their eyes. This is usually a good indicator that the temperatures are rising and the area is getting dusty, so being on top of the fly control is paramount.
We did yet more de-dagging of the shaggy highland coats and I brushed out most of the Highlands’ dossans, or fringe for those who aren’t in the know. This is an important feature of the breed and helps to both control flies and shield the eyes from the harsh glare of the sun. Not to mention they look pretty! Apparently cutting them can lead to blindness and so I like to maintain them and brush them out to remove knots, dags and any dreads that may form and prevent the hair from falling over the eyes.
Whilst the stock were gathered up James also castrated the two Belted Galloway calves. Perhaps in anticipation of this, one of them gave James a hefty kick to his delicate area, though thankfully missed the goods!! Both calves are less than 6 months old, so we use a rubber ring to remove the balls. We feel this is a nicer method to use and is less stressful for the animal. It simply involves a thick rubber ring that you expand and slip over the testes. This cuts off the blood supply causing the scrotum to dry up and eventually fall off.
Putting them on is always a bit of a fiddle as the rig expander has a tendency to cause the bands to flick off into the grass. You also have to get a good feel in order to ensure both testes are decended. If they aren’t then your supposed steer may go on to leave unwanted heirs; this is known as a stag. In addition, cattle that are poorly castrated develop secondary sexual characteristics, which diminishes their commercial value.
For those who aren’t farmers you will sympathise with me when I tell you I was shocked the first time I felt a bulls scrotum. The testes are a lot larger and more oval than I had expected. They are also furry!
Perhaps the most important part of our day was when we had a number of the girls preg tested. Hamish (and Blackadder for the latter part) was removed from the girls about a month ago, and had been running with them for approximately three months. The vets can’t give a guaranteed positive pregnancy if they are less than 6 weeks along, as there is a small chance in the early stages that the foetus can get reabsorbed. As we had the bull in for a good length of time, we were confident that most would be further than 6 weeks. We had all four Murray Greys, the three Belted Galloways and Bonnie, Chenoa and Clementina all checked to see if they were in calf and an estimate of how far along they are.
Bonnie’s check turned out to be somewhat problematic. To fill you in on the back story; Bonnie was due to calve in June of this year. James had checked the stock early in the morning before we both headed to Melbourne for an important meeting. During the day she had tried to calve and unfortunately had a posterior breach, preventing the calf from exiting the womb. James and I found her the following morning with a hoof poking out and were immediately aware something was amiss. The vet arrived promptly but the calf was dead on delivery. During the pulling Bonnie ended up with a torn artery in the womb, which resulted in the thickening on the inside due to scar tissue. We were warned of the small chance that she may experience calving difficulties in the future.
As a result James and I found ourselves very nervous whilst she was being checked and even more so when the vet declared she was unable to feel the uterus and determine whether there was a pregnancy or not. We arranged to have a second vet visit and perform an ultrasound on Bonnie. The ultrasound machine involved a handheld wand connected to a backpack unit and a pair of space-age goggles. The wand was inserted into the anus and an image was viewed in the goggles. It looked to be more comfortable for the animal than the usual hands-in method and we may consider this method again in the future. The procedure took all of 5 minutes to perform but was absolutely worth it for the result.
In total we had 10 heifers and cows checked and are happy to report that we are expecting 10 new calves in the Autumn! Yes, Bonnie is pregnant and 8 weeks along! We are so happy as she is our best cow. She is calm and displays the typical blunt muzzle and look of the Highland’s – definitely characteristics we wish to breed into our growing fold. Fingers crossed the calving goes well.