The 2021 calving season will begin shortly with our first cow currently overdue.

Our first calf of the year is always anticipated with great excitement as it signals the beginning of all we strive to achieve with a suckler herd each year.

We are trying out new bulls and will be keen to see which produces the goods. We will be looking out for easy calving and the size of the calves.

Usually our first calf is by a home-bred bull, and this year is no different as we let last year’s bull run with a couple of cows before sale in order to test his fertility.

Hopefully ‘PJ’ lives up to his easy calving figures, though regardless of what happens, I always try to let the buyer know what to expect from our experience.

Dragon calves

The cold snap at the beginning of January was like a breath of fresh air as a respite from the constant rain.

The calves we have outside appeared to thrive during it and were quite content to lie outside in the frosty air on a dry bank.

Each morning at their trough you could almost see the heat rising above them as they ate their ration and hay, snorting like dragons with their warm breath misting in the chilly air.

Without fail, frost also brings a couple of burst joiners on pipes and it’s certainly no fun walking around fields in the snow checking every pipe and drinker to find where something has come apart.

One occasion in particular found me questioning my sanity as I fished around in a drain with the thermometer showing -4°C. We also found ice on the drinkers in the shed, something we hadn’t seen since the last big freeze in 2010.

Roaring bull

Quite late on one of those frosty evenings, the young bull struck up a fit of roaring which had us all running down to the shed to see what was happening.

While fixing a leak which had sprung up in a drinker earlier in the day, a gate must have been left open and two pens of cows had mixed and were fighting like cats and dogs.

With quite a lot of shouts and roaring on my behalf, we soon got them sorted out again and these days all gates are checked. In my case, I climb over them or squeeze through the bars.

The same bull snitched on the fun in the shed a second time, roaring like there was no tomorrow.

Only this time, two calves being weaned had managed to open the latch on their gate and were merrily galloping back and forth up the feed passage, trying to get back to their respective mothers.

Not for love nor money, could we get those two back in the pen, full of the joys of youth and freedom as they circled bales, knocked forks, leapt and bucked, and dodged around us.

Finally, we had the idea of using a rope, with a blanket thrown over it to corral them and nudge the pair of escapees back into their pen.

The following day, they joined the bull and another heifer outside, so he could keep his watchful eye on them. Hopefully he can put some manners on them before they’re sold at the end of the month.

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