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!