Farmer Focus: Safety first gathering crucial calving data

Calving is going steadily, with 32 out of 145 calves born in the first eight days, including one set of twins. 

All the mature cows due in the next few weeks are down from the hill now, on grass where they will calve.

As the calves are born, alongside tagging, we are required to take specific data for the Stabiliser Cattle Company to help produce accurate data sets for the breed.

This job can be risky, particularly when you must tag and weigh the calf, take a tissue sample, administer vitamin E, castrate if necessary, and score the mother on teats and udders.

See also: How a suckler farmer is achieving six-week calving

About the author

David Girvan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer David Girvan and family run a 140-cow Stabiliser herd and wool-shedding crossbred ewes on a 3,000ha upland farm west of Inverness. Finished stock are sent to Woodheads. Diversifications include pumpkin picking, wind turbines and a biomass boiler.
Read more articles by David Girvan

So, a few years ago, I decided to make a trailer for the ATV, to provide a bit of protection. Using the trailer, I have time to do the checks knowing I’m safe. 

After the checks are complete, the calves are transported, with the mothers following behind, to a nearby field with other cows and young calves.

Using this trailer has made this task safer, and although it has not eliminated the risk altogether, it has as much as possible within the scope of the job.

This is the first year we will have no calves born using artificial insemination (AI) or embryo transfer.

I made this decision because the bulls we have from previous embryo transfers were good enough to run for this year. I intend to insert embryos again this summer.  

Unfortunately, synchronising the cows for the embryos and AI means the calves come in cycles, resulting in peaks and troughs in arrivals.

We calve recipients two weeks before the main calving block, extending the total calving period, which is not ideal. 

This year, with no embryos, I am hoping that calving will be complete within an eight-week period – but only time will tell if that is achievable. 

Other jobs this week have included our biggest sowing of pumpkin seeds to date. They have been sown into trays and stored in the greenhouse for germination until transplanting after the last frost. 

April has also seen the first of our subscription flower orders from our new diversification being sent locally and further afield. The tulips are coming fast with all the sunny weather and are a welcome sight on the farm.