Latest acquisition Panda brings riding back on track

It has been a busy month in the Tamar Valley. Silage season is finally starting to wind down and our attention has shifted to other neglected jobs around the farm.

Last year the National Trust added a three-bay extension to our cattle shed, although we haven’t found the time to fit out the inside with feed barriers or gates. Alongside the barn is another half-completed project, our cattle handing facility. So far this consists of a hard-core yard fenced with crash barriers, with temporary gates fashioned into a catch pen attached to the crush. This arrangement leaves a lot to be desired, especially with regards to safety and it’s high time we constructed something that is fit for purpose.

Over the last few years I have done a fair bit of research into different designs and the theories behind them. I would love to erect an all-singing, all-dancing curved race and circular catch pens but our budget and the space dictates that we settle for a more modest design.

The current schematic, expertly drawn up on an envelope, consists of a large holding pen with narrow forcing pens leading up to the race, which runs back in the opposite direction, the idea being that the cattle will follow each other and think they are going back the way they came. We will also be able to shed cattle into different pens once they exit the crush, which will make weaning calves much less stressful. One design feature that I really want to include is a catwalk attached to the race so that I can move animals along or apply pour-on without standing on my tiptoes.

See also: Bobbie Mothersdale on low water levels

Hopefully, once the handling pens are complete it will make managing the herd much safer, quicker and less stressful for both the cows and ourselves. It will also allow us to manage the cattle more carefully and I hope this will drive up output through better performance recording – that’s the plan anyway. We are hoping to have both the shed and handling pens finished by the end of August, with some help from friends and family lured out to the farm with the promise of a BBQ.

My other two mares have been less than welcoming to their new field mate
Jess Jeans

Edward has been on holiday to Dorset with his grandparents and by all accounts had a whale of a time. He was spoiled rotten by our extended family while he was there and he was so tired when he came home, he fell asleep at 5.30pm. It was lovely to have a break from children’s TV for a few days and to only have one child to keep an eye on, although Will really missed his little shadow.

It was our second wedding anniversary while Ed was away and we had planned to spend the day driving down the Cornish coast stopping at some of the fishing villages for lunch and a walk along the beach. However, just like all the best laid plans… we checked the dry cows as we were leaving only to find a heifer in the process of calving. By the time she had popped out her bull calf it was past lunchtime, so we headed to Plymouth for a little retail therapy instead.

I have also indulged in some equine bargain hunting recently and I have treated myself to a new horse. I spent a lovely day at Exeter market with my best friend, her baby daughter and Lydia. We returned home with Panda, a black and white gypsy cob mare. I’m a liability at auctions; I always get carried away. If it weren’t for Jenny giving me a dig in the ribs I would have come home with several horses and an empty bank account.

Panda is only four years old and unbroken but I have high hopes that she will make a lovely riding horse in the next few months. She seems to be very quiet, so let’s hope this bodes well for the first time I sit on her. We arrived at the sale without a horsebox, not wanting to tempt fate. Fortunately, I bumped into some friends who live nearby and they had space on their trailer so we managed to get Panda home without having to make two trips.

My other two mares have been less than welcoming to their new field mate and poor Panda has been sulking at the far end of the paddock. Riding has been a passion of mine since I was a child, although I have had little time to spend training horses since taking on the farm.

Will has been really supportive of me taking up the reins again, although I have my suspicions that this is primarily to distract me from nagging him about replacing the kitchen. Our old electric oven finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago so I ordered another one online straight away but it has been sitting in the middle of the kitchen ever since.

Will is allergic to any kind of DIY, so the prospect of ripping out our dated, disintegrating fitted units in order to replace them with the lovely reclaimed oak worktops and Belfast sinks I’ve been eyeing up has him coming out in a rash. He’s terrified that I’m going to take matters into my own hands and start the demolition job while he’s out. Another few weeks of trying to feed everyone using only the electric hob and I just might.

See more