Category Archives: Dexters

The cows have left the croft

We say goodbye to our Dexters

This month our last two cows, Rosie and Albert have gone away to be dispatched.  It ends our dabbling in cow husbandry which, if we are honest, wasn’t a great success.  Although, if you tasted the beef that came out of it, you may not agree.

We initially wanted a housecow, a quiet beast that we could milk.  Shetlands were our preference but somehow we ended up with a Dexter, supposedly the perfect cow for a smallholder, not too big and easy to handle.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t our experience.  Maybe we were just unlucky in that we managed to buy a highly strung beast and then breed more highly strung calves.  Or maybe it was just our lack of cow-handling skills.

We bought a crush and heavy metal gates to allow us to safely carry out routine TB testing or AI, but actually getting them into the crush was very difficult.  When there was a need for some sort of procedure, we would “train” them for weeks beforehand by constructing a pen feeding them only inside it, until it was possible to close it up without them spooking.  Even so they were jumpy and if we shut them in and they heard the dogs barking at the arrival of the vet, they would start looking for an escape route.  In fact once, Pippa, the start of all our troubles, managed to lift the gates up and get out.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad, and we had 4 calves born on the croft, the last of which we reared on goat’s milk as the mother wouldn’t let him feed.  We never did manage to milk any of them, hence the reason we got the goats.  But the one thing we can never criticise is the quality of the meat.  Best beef we have ever tasted by far.

We are sticking to sheep from now on, they are far easier to manage although those rams can be a challenge at times!

Cow and goat

Baling, calving and a co-operative goat

Our delight at cutting the grass in July lasted about 24 hours, after which it rained and rained and rained (and rained). We expected rain of course, but not as much as we got!

Eventually we managed to bale it, but due to a number of factors we got only 100 bales – about a third of what we were hoping for (and need). At least we managed to do it all with our own equipment this time, and mechanically speaking, everything worked a treat!

Meanwhile, Rosie, one of our Dexters, delivered a calf for us a week earlier than expected. This was her first calf, and although the birth was fine, regrettably she didn’t seem too keen on feeding it! After quite a lot of fiddling about, we admitted defeat and separated mother and calf, and started feeding him from a bottle. He is called Albert.

One of our local dairies supplied colostrum, and another was happy to give us fresh milk for a couple of weeks, but unfortunately Albert just hasn’t taken to bottle feeding at all.

Luckily, the goat kids are already eating solid food, so the most sensible solution was to separate them from the goat and let Albert suckle it instead (pictured). Unusual perhaps, but working nonetheless. Kids, calf, and goat are all doing beautifully!

Welcome to the world

It’s a girl

January got the year off to a fairly damp and cold start, and work to keep Pippa (Dexter Cow) comfortable and warm didn’t get any easier! Pippa doesn’t like going into a shed, but she seems quite happy in her field shelter, so several bags of straw later she looked pretty snug.

Due to calf at any time (difficult to predict exactly when) it was extremely important to ensure the survival of the calf with plenty of bedding, and extra hay and cattle cobs were in order – not too many cobs though as we didn’t want the calf to grow too big and make the birth difficult.

Meanwhile, the first half of 25 fence posts were punched in along the far boundary. New fencing is required here to prevent our sheep getting out and either falling in the drainage ditch (see September 2007) or wandering about in our neighbours’ lush grass fields.

Finally, on the last day of January, and in the worst weather we’ve seen so far this year, Pippa’s Calf (Rosie) was born!

A calf is born

Pippa finally delivers our first calf

Thankfully, after several weeks of waiting, Pippa finally gave birth to a bull calf on November 14th without any help from anyone.

Despite the chill in the weather, mother and calf continue to do well, albeit we are still keeping a good arm’s length away for the safety of everyone concerned.

We are also confident that our sow is in pig to our boar, and have just collected our ram lamb. He appears to be pleased with his new harem, and we sincerely hope he is as fertile as his predecessor! Only time will tell.

Plenty more work to do though. The polytunnel needs tidying, and the fruit garden is more weed than fruit bush at the moment. Fun times ahead…

Awaiting a new arrival

The weather proves a challenge whilst we await the birth of our first calf

The weather has certainly changed for us up here. No more sun for the last 2 or 3 weeks, but plenty of rain and some quite strong gales. We’ve had a relatively dry year all in all, but the result of that seems to be that the ground surface is quite hard and the torrential rain we are getting now has nowhere to go!

We’re also still waiting for Pippa, our Dexter cow, to give birth to her calf. It would have been nice for that to happen when everything was dry but that’s obviously not how it’s going to be. Still, provided we remain vigilant everything will be fine.

Our ewes are currently paddocked without so much grass at the moment, so they can thin up a little in time for the ram to arrive. Judging by our results last year this probably isn’t necessary, but we don’t want any complications.