The calves are reared on milk at an early age. They are kept in pens of 6 to 10 and are fed 4 to 8 litres of milk per day depending on their age and breed. At 6 weeks old they are weaned off milk and fed hay and corn in the winter time or turned out to grass in the summer.
The milk is fed in big drums with teats on them. On the inside of the drums there are pipes attached which drop down into the milk enabling the calf to suck up the milk. As they are fed in groups calves are quick to learn how to drink the milk, as they learn from one another. When they first start to drink this way they are given 1.5 litres per feed twice a day. The better drinkers are soon capable of taking 3 to 4 litres per feed but feeding them too much too soon can make them ill.
After the calves are weaned off milk I prefer them to be outside when the weather allows. The calf in the photo below is about 4 months old and has a winter coat as this was taken in December. As long as they have plenty to eat they willl grow well outside even in cold weather.
These calves have plenty of grass to eat although it will not grow back as the ground temperature is too cold during winter time.
The grass grown on this field grew during the late summer and autumn.
The photo below was taken at the end of April after an awful spring. There is enough grass here for these heifers now but a late fall of snow in March meant they had to be brought back inside to be fed for a month. There would normally be more leaves on the trees by this time and much more colour in the grass.
These young heifers below are being moved to a fresh patch of grass. I don't have to chase them out of the field because they know that are getting fresh food and are excited. Cattle love eating and are easily moved if they think they will benefit from it.
This Belgian blue cross calf does not seem very happy about the continuous rain that we had in the autumn. Despite that, this group have all put weight on and grown well. The ground had not become so saturated that the animals were making a mess and I made sure we moved them on to a fresh field before the grass became short or the paddock too muddy.
The cattle have to put up with all sorts of weather conditions from brilliant sunshine to teeming rain. The range of conditions this year have been amzing with 400mm of snow here in march, to floods in May and hot sunshine too. The three photos below were all taken within the last 10 days of may.
Two heifers challenge one another to see who is the boss. This behaviour goes on continually in a herd of cows with boss animals evolving and a natural 'pecking order' being created of leaders and followers. These animals horns have been removed when they are tiny. Its a small operation when the calf is young but saves them from damaging each other when they are older.
These young cows are benefitting from a flush of mid summer grass brought by heavy rainstorms. Dry spells of weather are not helpful when you have to bring grass to 300 cows and 200 young cattle. The grass needs to grow continually to feed all 500 mouths and dry spells can cause me to panic. Finding food for this many animals is not easy, as they eat around 30 tonnes of grass per day. Thats the same weight as 20 Ford Mondeo's!