Calves, lambs & soggy paths

Calves, lambs & soggy paths

Where to start… Friday was a foul day as regards weather, so the final stage of TB testing was cold and wet for those involved. Just to add to the pleasure, four cattle were identified as IR’s. So, the big questions are why, and what steps do we take. A long discussion with our vet, supported by papers detailing each animals’ past history was inconclusive but, she will be back on Monday to share her latest thoughts and carry out the PD scanning. 

It looks likely that there may be a carrier in the herd, but that assumes TB can be inherited. We have gone some way to identifying which animals that might be. It is important to stress that this, while not being what we hoped for, is in no way the end of the herd. On an emotional level it feels such an irony that to the observer, all our animals look magnificent.

TB, or consumption as it was known for many years in humans, was once untreatable, but that is no longer the case. In large part that is related to better housing but also to the pasteurisation of milk. Its history in cattle goes back many years and it appears to be a disease that is cyclical, though in recent years the numbers of cattle so identified is much larger than a decade ago. Despite this long-time frame, only limited progress seems to have made in understanding how to identify it, and indeed in the efficacy of the basic skin test used. Truly a nightmare especially for us in the western side of England.

Calves and lambs

Putting all that to one side, we have had two new calves – both male. One of the calves was struggling since its mother at first found it difficult to accept both it and her new role! We still expect at least two more calves. I said the animals look good, but close up it is obvious treatment for lice has to be given. I shall fill in the necessary forms to gain derogation from Demeter.

This week we sold a further 12 lambs. In selecting them, it was good to note that the grass in field 4 has enabled them to improve both their condition and weights. The remaining lambs will not go until the end of the month at the earliest. The big news is obviously the results of the scanning on Sunday week.

Soggy paths

Until recently I have been able to talk of firm pastures. That is certainly no longer the case, indeed the ground is in some place waterlogged. As for the bridle path it is more puddles than anything else.

Concerns about bedding straw and feed straw have been allayed for the moment! 

Answering a question that has come up more than once, all animals that, for whatever reason, may not be sold as organic, are recorded on our electronic data base. This is to ensure we make no mistakes. In a similar way we record all medicines given and the organic withdrawal date, before which they cannot be sold. On the odd occasions when an animal for welfare reasons has to be treated with allopathic drugs, it is automatically marked as non-organic.

Origins and time

Watching a program presented by Dr Alice Roberts on the peopling of North and South America made as long ago as 2008, took me straight back to Lewis Dartnell’s book “Origins”. While his writing may be a bit journalistic, and some of the inferences overstretched, anybody who wants an up to date account of both how the world has reached its current physical shape and how our ancestors spread around the world need look no further. Geological time is very hard to really grasp, just as hard as it is to realise humans, such as now populate the world, may be gone in 20,000 years. Hard also to grasp that humanoids of one kind or another have come and gone over the last 2,000,000 or so years but, however reluctantly, we know this is the reality.

Tectonic plate theory is now firmly established, and is a development of the theory of ‘continental drift’ that held sway from the second decade of the 20th century to the mid-1960’s. It is the movement of these plates that explains mountain ranges, rifts in the earth’s surface, and of course the ‘ring of fire’ which is referred to so often when Vulcanic eruptions devastate certain parts of the world. 

It is so easy not to notice how and when new insights into how the world works slip into our lives. Here is one example: We all now know of the ‘jet stream’ and its impact on our weather as a fact of life. Yet it was not until the Second World War that real attention was paid to the phenomena, and much later that its influence on weather patterns became better understood. The weather charts I was brought up on made no mention of these streams and even today their movements, and the effect on the weather is not routinely shared.

European Jigsaw

On an entirely unrelated matter, a grandson has a jigsaw of Europe. The piece labelled ‘Netherlands’ confused him somewhat because at home we refer to Holland and the people who live there as Dutch. At school in history he is likely to learn about the ‘Low countries’ and their significance in the 16th century. Trying to explain how they became Belgium and Holland was thankfully not asked. It was hard enough to explain why the name The Netherlands was adopted rather than Holland, and why in Napoleonic times the country was called Batavia! Mind you, to be very honest, I think his interest waned well before I finished talking.

Lieder and poetry

I am not over enamoured of Lieder but listening to Ian Bostridge singing Schubert’s ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’, I am happy to admit the music and voice came together beautifully, making listening to it a very positive experience.  I know that part of my negativity towards Leider is the reverence in which this ‘art form’ is held, but that stems perhaps from my general dislike of deference, added to the fact that whether it is verses set to music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams or Quilter, for example, the ‘form’ fails to appeal to me. In fact, I have listened to little music this week – perhaps because starting the week listening to Brahms piano trios left me both wondering why I had once esteemed his compositions so highly and, rather more to the point, uninterested in trying anything else. The Schubert I caught by accident and was a memorable experience.

Finally thinking about an appropriate poem for the week, rather than refer to the negatives I thought of the very famous poem on the snowdrop by Wordsworth but then came across this which caught my imagination and in which the snowdrop is referred to obliquely. This is the time of year when thousands visit gardens just to enjoy the snowdrop, that harbinger of spring.

The Snowdrop by Lord Alfred Tennyson 

Many, many welcomes,

February fair-maid,

Ever as of old time,

Solitary firstling,

Coming in the cold time,

Prophet of the gay time,


Prophet of the May time,


Prophet of the roses,


Many, many welcomes,


February fair maid!

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