FARMING MATTERS: Cows and calves leave the farm

Thame Auction Market         Copyright Heather Jan Brunt
Thame Auction Market Copyright Heather Jan Brunt

Our suckler herd has now left us and the farm feels very quiet without the cows and calves.

They left for Thame Auction Market in five lorries early one morning after we had risen at 4am to sort them and help the livestock hauliers to load them.

As the cows and their calves have lived their entire lives here, they had never been on a lorry before and we did wonder how they would cope with it.

Thanks to careful planning, bringing them into the buildings the night before, and the expertise and care of the hauliers , A Britnell from Thame, and the market drovers on arrival, any stress was kept to a minimum.

The cows had to be separated from their calves for the journey - it was safer not to mix big and small animals in the enclosed environment of a lorry.

But they were penned next to each other in market, and were reunited as they entered the sale ring.

Each cow and her calf was sold as a unit and it was exceedingly pleasing to see that no single cow and calf left the market alone.

Twelve buyers bought the herd and they all bought several cows and calves, so it was good to know that in their new homes they would be with familiar faces.

It was a hard day emotionally, watching a lifetime’s work go in the space of a few hours, but there was some satisfaction in seeing how well they were received.

The herd has been with us for more than 30 years and has the same bloodline, having been bred from six original cows. Our intention was to have a herd of Limousin cattle but over the years we gradually changed to Charolais, so our stock bulls have been Limousins, Charolias and on one occasion we used a Blonde.

The younger heifers, being smaller than the full size cows, were put to an Angus bull and in later years to a Hereford bull.

And in fact during this last year of the herd, the Hereford bull was used across all the cows, resulting in very chunky stocky calves with white faces and lovely temperaments.

Now we are left with just a handful of fattening steers and heifers, and by the end of the summer, they too will be gone as the sale of the farm goes through on Michaelmas.