Feeding the cows
On arriving at the farm we noticed how much colder it was than in Cheltenham. As soon as the children were out of the car the huge icy puddle was spotted and investigated. Stamping to break the ice even tempted the adults and the children enjoyed walking, sliding and falling on the slippy surface. More stamping on the ice that had come out of the puddle… does it break? Why not?
A tour around the barn, across the yard to the silage clamp ended with a close examination of the Loadall and other machinary.
“Come on boys, lets go and feed the cows”. We walked to the cowshed, a massive building with metal gates and corrugated roof, listening all the time to the cows’ lowing increasing in volume. The cows were separated into age groups and already had silage to eat. The “cake”, a mixture of grain and pellets, was poured out of sacks into small buckets for the children. Daniel and Lolo, the only ones brave enough to feed the cows, came back time after time to have their buckets refilled. Some of the cows stayed at the back where it was warm and had to be coaxed out for their cake. Once they were all fed, it was time for our snack, a lovely cup of tea and delicious slice of chocolate brownie or fruit cake.
Next, the dairy farm!
The farmer had kindly arranged for us to visit a neighbouring dairy farm where there is a robotic milking parlour.
After looking at the cows bedroom, complete with mattresses, we went to see the robot. James and Daniel, in particular, found the milking process fascinating, watching the cow in the machine. Others were not so keen on the noise but went outside and happily watched the cows queuing up to take their turn.
We were also incredibly fortunate to see a cow with her newborn (less than 12hrs) wobbly calf. The bull named Brian, a huge animal but apparently quite placid, and some other young calves who, will move to another farm in the summer when the older cows move into the dairy herd.
The farm trips have sparked many discussions. Daniel is very interested in the cows reasoning as to where they are in the sheds. “Are they ‘in the back or front stalls’?” and Why? are constant questions. “I think they come to the front to call to each other” was one explanation.
In our group the dairy visit prompted lots of thoughts about dairy cows; we all winced at the thought of being pregnant again ten weeks after giving birth! We are astounded by the volume of milk produced but at the same time feel incredibly privileged at being able to visit firsthand and see the whole process. For me it once again highlighted the dedication of farmers.