Minette Batters finds Schmallenberg in two calves

Calving is nearly over – the good news is that we’ve achieved our target of a nine-week calving pattern, the bad news being that we had two cases of Schmallenberg. I have never seen calves like these; one had its back legs bent right round backwards, making the hock joints look like knee caps and the other was born unable to stand and appeared to have severe brain damage.

The last heifer to calve chose a Bank Holiday to need help, and I was yet again reminded of what an ingenious piece of kit Bill Ritchie’s catcher crate is. In the past we’d have to drive cows back to the farm, which was time-consuming and stressful, not to mention needing an army of people to help drive them in. The crate sits on the front of the loader and has gates that open and shut on the hydraulics so you can just drive up to the animal with the gates open, shut the animal in, halter on and away you go. It’s also been invaluable for tagging calves. Having spent many years with a bucket of cake and a stick, it’s reassuring with some of our more feisty cows to have a solid barrier between mother and calf.

We loaded 15 bulls for the abattoir this morning, and a quick glance at the kill sheet shows that the average carcase yield was 360kg on bulls that were between 12 and 13 months of age. Sadly, the price has just softened in the past two weeks.

Minette Batters farms 120ha (300 acres) on a tenant farm on the Longford Estate in south Wiltshire. The farm carries 100 continental-bred suckler cows, with males finished as bull beef, some sold as stores and the others finished and sold to local butchers. The enterprise also includes a catering business and horse livery. She is NFU county chairwoman for Wiltshire and founder of Ladies in Beef.

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