On Saturday, Jules helped deliver a beautiful heifer calf. The birth was textbook and we were so happy after last year’s sadness with Dimple having a still born bull calf. Unfortunately Dimple did not let her calf suckle, so we have separated them and are bottle feeding the calf. This was never the intention and we were very surprised that Dimple did not even seem to call or look for the calf. The silver lining is that we love bottle feeding our latest new addition, even if it is yet another job! It took quite a lot of patience and encouragement to get her to take the bottle, but we got there in the end. Luckily milking has been much easier this time round and as soon as all the colostrum has finished, we will be making butter, cheese and yoghurt again! We are still trying to come up with a name for the little calf- so let us know if you have any suggestions.
We’re full swing into a bumper harvest season, with LOTS of apples to process, jams & chutneys to make and veg to store, not to mention some pretty big DIY projects in the house, so we don’t have much time for updates. So here are some highlights of the summer just passed (and there’s a new baby album in the photo gallery for those who are interested). Happy autumn to you all!
Last Sunday was probably the most emotional day yet here at Penybanc. We got up in the morning and found that our lovely Jersey cow, Dimple, was in labour. We were super excited as we’ve waited 9 months for this and we were pretty sure it was stage two by this point so there should only have been an hour or two before the calf arrived, but after two hours there was no sign and we asked our friend/neighbour/local dairy farmer if he would mind taking a look. He was lovely and checked her and said the calf was in the birth canal and should pop out any second. Sadly, the calf was stuck there and in the end Alwyn had to attach ropes around the calf’s feet and head and pull him out with a calf jack. The beautiful little bull calf was still born and there was no reviving him. I must admit that I shed quite a few tears.
Our next worry was that Dimple wouldn’t get up after that. She suffered some paralysis in one of her legs as a result of the calf being in the birth canal too long and damaging a nerve. Thankfully we finally managed to get her standing just when we were getting desperate and we managed to support her for long enough to get her circulation going again.
Poor Dimple must have been in labour for longer than we realised and I tortured myself for a while about whether we could have saved the calf if we had not been such beginners. The very kindly man who sold her to us re-assured me that it was unlikely we could have saved the calf. The fact that the afterbirth came out with the calf probably means that when he turned into position, most likely about 24 hours beforehand, the placenta had detached and he wouldn’t have had much of a chance after that. Apparently it sometimes happens when heifers are having their first calf and hopefully it shouldn’t happen next time round.
The silver liningis that all our worries about milk sharing with a calf and how to manage that have fallen away – although it is a hell of a lot of milkwithout a calf to share it with! We are just getting used to our new milking routine and Dimple is pretty relaxed at milking time despite all of us being new to this. We milk at 7.30am and 7.30pm every day. After 2 days of colostrum,we are now getting about 5 litres (10 pints roughly) or so at each milking of delicious creamy jersey milk…. and apparently her milk won’t be completely in yet and Dimple could yield yet more! Jules is churning butter at this very moment. Our fridge is full to bursting and Barbara the pig is pretty darn happy about the excess. This is a big step towards self-sufficiency. WE LOVE YOU DIMPLE!!
We already have the traffic light labels to tell us what danger we’re in from that high percentage of fat in our butter and “how useful that is!” I hear you cry. Perhaps it is useful sometimes – I can’t say I’ve ever found it so. Now what is more difficult to know about your food and what I hope at least some people care about is the environmental impact of the produce that you are buying… we resort to looking at the country of origin, try to buy seasonally, buy locally etc. but this is not always the best approach. For example tomatoes grown in this country may have demanded significantly more energy through being grown in a heated and artificially lit greenhouse or stored in inert gas chambers for months rather than being flown over from southern Europe.
So the Swedes are trying out a labelling method which aims to clarify this a little. The idea, as I understand it, is that each foodstuff (eg. Tomatoes) has a reference (I guess the average?) climate impact and a particular product’s position relative to that average is calculated. So if you are a tomato that has been grown in a significantly (25%) more environmentally friendly manner than the reference product then you will get a gold star (or whatever). This, theoretically, takes into account everything that it took to get the food to the market – cultivation, harvesting, transportation and packaging. Of course no climate labelling scheme can be exhaustive or 100% accurate, but this seems like a pretty good effort (Tell me more…)
I, for one, will be interested to see how it goes and perhaps one day we might do something similar over here.
Ed: Incidentally the Swedes also did, in my opinion, a better method of the ‘health rating’ labelling using a keyhole symbol. Read more here.
Chanchita (a Gloucester Old Spot) was with us for almost exactly a year. Being the runt of the litter, she grew very slowly and was quite shoulder heavy, which is not really ideal. Nevertheless, we were very happy that we gave her a good life which she would otherwise never have had and, it is not as if our pig rearing would be commercially viable anyway! Probably because she was bottle fed from just a few days old, she always was a slightly odd character. Slaughter is always bitter sweet and is quite a big occasion on our little smallholding and it is important that we make good use of every last bit of meat.
Jules did the butchery himself, which was a seriously long day for him. He has made absolutely scrumptious pâté, meaty delicious sausages (all using a hand cranked mincer – phew!), lots of ham and bacon that has yet to be sampled, mouth watering faggots (which has become our tradition the day after slaughter) and left us with a freezer full of pork to eat over the next six months or so.
Anyway, I am off to eat a Sunday pork roast so I’ll leave you with a couple of snowy photos.