On the whole the breeding cows look after themselves. They are given a long acting mineral bolus twice a year, their hooves are trimmed annually, if necessary they have a spot on mite treatment and the occasional worm treatment. They are checked twice a day and moved around the farm for good grass as required, in the winter they are given haylage which has been cut from the farm in the summer. However the calves need a little more maintenance, we keep them until they are a maximum of 26 months old before they are moved on. At around 8/9 months old the boys need castrating.
This obviously involves a vet visit, they are injected with a local anaesthetic and an antibiotic immediately before the procedure.
An incision is made in the scrotum and the testicles squeezed out.
No stitches and they are released immediately back into the field with their mothers. Their recovery is amazing, almost without fail you cannot tell they have even had it done. We have the odd calf who feels a bit sorry for himself, hence we leave weaning them for some time after so they have the comfort of still feeding from their mothers.
Around a month later we split the calves from their already pregnant mums. The calves are eating mainly grass at this point anyway and the mums need a break before having their next calves are born (April/May). Their are several different methods used to wean calves, we have decided we do prefer using the Quiet Weaners – these are plastic discs attached to the nose of the calf which flap up preventing them from feeding from their mum but allowing them to eat grass. This method means they do still get the comfort of being in the herd environment with their mums for another week, the discs are then removed and the calves are then separated into another field for the second stage of weaning. It does seem to make it less stressful for the cows and calves (and us)……a lesson we learnt from last year!