Last Tuesday and a little ahead of schedule, the first Dexter (Nellie) started showing what looked to be signs of impending calving – she kept herself separate in a far corner of the field and was walking a bit like John Wayne or Gary Cooper in those old westerns.
There was little change or progress by the time it got dark but after our evening meal it was decided that a final check was definitely in order. This time I was greeted by a welcome sight through the dark and rainy night when I saw an extra pair of eyes reflecting in the torch-light from the back of the field – this new pair were considerably nearer the ground than the two larger pair of eyes.
Over the next 2-3 days much time was spent getting used to the new arrival and dealing with all the necessary government officialdom which comes with owning cattle. Finally I got myself organised and grabbed the calf into our small trailer so that I could check it over and apply the required ear tags.
On closer inspection while he was in the trailer (even to my untrained eye) it was clear that this is a bull calf and he seems to be really healthy. For the record, his name is OSCAR and even over this short period he has become much more mobile and active as well as very inquisitive.
One major task for the coming months is to make sure that, like his mother, he gets used to people being around so that the routine work can be handled safely and easily. Unfortunately the next big event on his calendar will be castration and disbudding but these are essential for the safety of both us and all the cattle.
These are full pedigree Dexter cattle so I still have to complete the registration with the breed society but that is just a matter of some online form filling and sending in some paperwork. Although the Dexter is no longer officially a rare breed, I like the fact that as with our pedigree Tamworth pigs, they are properly registered and in addition we can always get the support of the breed society.
In the meantime I mustn’t forget that the second cow (Daisy) is still to calf, currently expected to be around the end of January. She’s already showing some good signs for motherhood by helping to protect the new youngster when any strangers turn up. However when it’s just me around then she’s a proper softy with a real fondness for licking the pig feed residue off my gloves!
Luckily the winter feeding for the cattle shouldn’t be a problem as a neighbouring farmer takes the contents of our meadows each year and was quite happy to bring over a bale on request. Dexters are a small, hardy native breed so they don’t eat as much as the larger continental breeds of cattle but even better they certainly don’t need extra veterinary care, medicines or growth hormones. All they need is a good supply of grass (in any form) with water freely available and they seem really happy.
The first bale of silage took them almost 4 weeks to get through and the second bale has only just been delivered so the cupboard is now stocked through into January – not much of a Christmas meal in my opinion but they seem to like it a lot!