After 5 months indoors we were finally able to turn the suckler beef cows and young calves outside. If you want to know how excited they were click on the link:
It is a time when you need to keep them all together going through a gateway or the cows race off and the calves get left behind and confused by being the other side of a fence.
The calves from last year are grazing some rented land round the reservoir, water authority restrictions due to the potential spread of cryptosporidiosis mean than all stock has to be over 6 months when grazing next to the reservoir.
They have no piped water so we are using the combined tank and electric fence power unit Phil constructed last year. When the weather is hot ( did you catch some of that ? ) the tank needs refilling every 3 days. This was a two man job as someone had to keep the curious beasts away from the open gate as the bowser was driven into the field next to the tank for the water to be pumped in.
It took two sessions like this with lots of stick waving to keep the beasts back before Phil purchased a longer pipe to reach from bowser to tank through the fence; it is now a one man job.
There was a certain amount of preparation to be done before the young stock could be turned out. There was a fence in place but we have learned that if you want to return to the field where you left the cattle and still find them in it - better to have a strand of wire with hopefully 10,000 volts of electricity going through it as well. So the new-to-us digger has been in action again making a neat trench to bury the cable taking the electricity from the solar panel battery source to the fence and also banging in the posts to hold the wire.
We managed to snatch some silage after 5 days of attempting to dry it out on Bank Holiday Monday. At least that was safely wrapped before the horrendous weather on Tuesday. We would feel quite smug if we hadn't believed the forecast which only put rain on one day and cut another 15 acres of grass on the Sunday. Hey ho. Only a potential £3000 loss and the work to keep it turned so it doesn't kill the grass underneath.
Once the grass has been mown it is left to wilt for 24 hours before being spread to hopefully dry out more in the sun then rowed up in the evenings for about 5 days until the moisture content has reduced significantly. The cows eat the silage when they are indoors over winter and if it is wet when eaten, it is wet when coming out the other end and they need more strawing up. So if we can make drier silage it saves on straw later.
Once the bales have arrived in the yard on the trailer it is a one man operation to put them from the trailer onto the wrapper,set the wrapper going with a remote control, take the wrapped bale onto the stack and collect another bale to be wrapped. There is a video of this operation from last year if you click the link https://www.facebook.com/wigborough.meats/videos/972845986162075/
The loader has an attachment at the front for carrying the bales and it holds them by squeezing a bale between three prongs. This means the plastic wrap isn't punctured as it would be if the bale was moved with a spike. The air is kept out and the silage preserved by anaerobic fermentation.
Hopefully by the next newsletter we will have made some more silage or even hay which requires a week of fine weather ........ roll on summer, by temperature not just date.