Down on the Farm with Colin Williamson - February

Colin Williamson
Colin Williamson

We get good weeks now and again in winter but they are very few and far between.

The normal is bad and worse, very long hours keeping all the livestock happy.

Last week being a real brute with the water to stock and hens frozen up all week, even the milking parlour was frozen up on a couple of mornings.

Cows need water, and a good deal of it, or milk production drops rapidly.

Also, if the hens have no water, the eggs they produce just dry up and then they take time to come back into lay again.

The hens are quite funny really on snow.

Normally when we open the door there is a mass exodus from the house and they set off and run in all directions up, down and across the farmyard.

The morning of three or four inches of snow we opened the door and there was just a pile in the doorway, one on top of the other.

None of them wanted to put their feet in the snow and slowly descended back into the henhouse.

After a couple of days they start walking to the edge of the snow, still not really sure about it.

At the moment we are trying to repair the pantile roof to put some fresh hens in.

All the backside of the roof caved in with rotting timber not able to hold the pantiles up.

Me, being no expert, thought I could build it back up having taken advice from here and there, tips on things common farmers never think about.

I did have an elderly gentleman helping me and when he told me the older you get, the wiser you get, I doubted these words of wisdom when we spent one afternoon working backside first, only to be told we’ll do it the other way tomorrow.

Our pedigree Suffolks did very well lambing.

From my first year when I bought them and paying a lot for them from a top breeder that year, not one lambed on their own and I to get the vet in to six of them.

I thought then this is not how it should be, the commercial sheep farmer needs lambs that are born on their own and get up and suckle.

I’ve had a lot of setbacks in this area.

I have a small pen and a building end for them to run into and lambing in January - these are very harsh conditions for them, but to get hardiness into them these are the conditions they have to survive in.

This year they lambed over one weekend, everyone lambed on their own and the lambs jumped up and suckled even when born outside at night in the cold.

Was I a happy bunny ...

The dairy herd at the moment is holding steady in milk production with some cows calving and coming back into milk and others, having milked for 10-11 months, deciding it’s time for a rest and drying off altogether.

I bought some semen off one of the sales companies to use with artificial insemination, a beef breed - the British Blue.

I’ve always been quite sceptical when they say these are easy calving, meaning the cows pop them out without too much hassle.

The cows are calving them.

But they are very big.

We did this week have to get the local knacker man Harry Atkinson from Pickering for one cow that developed rheumatism and was struggling to get around.

Only a couple of years ago or so, I forgot the ministry brought out a booklet on rules and regs regarding getting these animals to a slaughterhouse.

It must have taken them years to produce it, then not long after, or even at the same time, another one on transportation, making the first totally irrelevant, as animals can’t be transported unless in totally healthy condition.

So now neither farmers or hauliers will take the risk of transporting these casualty animals to the slaughterhouse.

Don’t miss Colin’s next Down on the Farm column – it will appear the third Friday of every month.