Ugh…. January! A month that is up there with atrocities including peanut butter, One Direction and "Stoptober". It is such a pointless month that even the big man upstairs has tried to wash it off the calendar for good! If there is one thing worse than going to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark, then it’s opening the door to go to work in the dark and being welcomed by a gale force wind and, rain that could sink the Titanic quicker than any iceberg. Yet I can’t even complain about this after attending a recent management meeting that included managers from 'up north' where there were stories of three times more rain than we had in January on a single day in December!! . 'Up north', apparently, doesn’t have any bridges left, yet another reason not to leave the beautiful south-west then.
Sheep - typically refusing to prove my point
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where hostages can express positive feelings towards their captors, apparently. This is how I feel about TB testing these days as we once again got stuck into another 60-day test for a week during the middle of the month. No one likes TB testing other than me these days, simply because I see it as a challenge of my ability to organise a team of people that can do awesome things, not to mention the fact that I don’t have to milk either side of the tests which makes everything a bit easier. Even though we have got TB testing over the past few years pretty well 'sussed', I usually fail at my task at least once during the 4-5 days but, this time around the team excelled to a whole new level of 'awesomeness' as we put through six groups of cows totalling 500 cows in three hours, averaging out at 21.6 seconds/cow, a stat that will take some beating at our place. Five members of staff, a vet, a veterinary assistant and a breath-taking mobile handling system appear to be the winning formula.
There were two 'highlights' from the test for me. The first, as we got under way with the first batch of cows, I was operating the handling system when I noticed (through a gap under the shed gate) approximately 130 cows worth of hooves gallop out of the bottom yard going the opposite way to where they were supposed to. Sure enough, seconds later said hooves merrily galloped past the top yard where we were working, straight out to the grazing paddocks, conveniently ending up in a field known as ‘Wet ground’. Que the screams, shouts for help, foul language and ultimately, complete chaos…………… but no! Apparently the black and white cloaked fugitives soon changed their mind once they realised ‘Wet ground’ was named after a very valid observation, turned around and legged it straight back down past us and back into the yard. Relatively speaking there was no chaos, everyone handled it perfectly and testing had continued without any delay whatsoever.
Slightly soft under foot
The second highlight was that the handling system was spotless when we first set it up thanks to a good power-wash by our apprentice (no doubt he is extremely excited about washing it all down again). No matter where or what you do I am sure it goes better when everything is clean and tidy, life just appears to be easier. The state of my truck would suggest I should act out my philosophy but right now I’m blaming that on the sheep! If I can blame a sheep or a horse for anything then I will. It is true though, the current batch/flock/swarm of sheep out in the park have decided that the driveway is far more comfortable to chill out during the night then the rest of the 20 hectare field, and where sheep go, droppings fall, which then plaster my truck thanks to the monsoon rains.
As we are on the subject, and I always forget about our jolly sheep flock of uncountable numbers, preparation for the lambing season is well under way as marquees go up for the early lambing stint. Even with the marquees, and especially during wet seasons, sheep and lambs will be found in any building with a roof, unused farm buildings, workshops, abandoned caravans, calf hutches (avec calves), and of course the classic lambs in a box warming up inside the Aga! The effort from our shepherds and assistants usually results with impressive figures and translates into many, many lambs that end up terrorising local walkers throughout the park on sunny spring days.
Slurry bag saving the day
Now, at the end of January, there is literally light at the end of the tunnel as all of a sudden the days do appear to be stretching out, the cows have been on an absolute mission producing milk on some very good quality silage which has helped us claw back some lost production from last summer and, at present the covered slurry lagoons are saving the day. And the icing on the cake?? Leicester City refusing to suffer from vertigo.