We are now in the middle of our main calving period and the pressure on cubicle space is apparent! Also we have the problem of a reduced number, due to having taken 20 cubicles out around the sheds to make way for the out of parlour feeders. The last actual barrens we sold, were exported to Dunbia in July, being only 7 in number. The time before that was in April when we sold 6 culls and a bull, 11 culls in February. This brings our culling rate including deaths, down to 9% for the last 12 months! Remember, we have 450 cows…..
We have been trying to finish a run of cubicles with the rain and gales hampering progress and still have about 80 animals out. We are starting to worry about having enough grass for turnout next March.
Here we have the added complication of being in the middle of the Irish Sea when selling cattle. There are all sorts of hoops here we have to jump through and the added vagaries of the weather. This is how it goes:-
If we want to sell in a market, say Beeston, we have to find a friendly farmer to take on our heifers when they arrive. This is because the animals have to rest and have their passports changed from IOM to UK, 10 days is needed for this to happen. We eye up a likely sale date, about 17 days earlier we have to notify DEFA here that we want to export. The animals are inspected by the vet, all have to be 100% with two sets of eartags (not even a flag missing from behind) Then we have to wait for the weather, the lorry inspected!
We cannot send out a wagon on the ferry over a force 4, we have sent animals down to the dock and the captain has refused to take them on board, arriving back half an hour later! With us being a closed herd, we have the added complication of filling that particular lorry as we will not put our animals with any others. It costs £130 – £140 for each animal on that lorry. Also we cannot double deck large cattle due to once I think, one tipping over, killing cattle and damaging cars during a rough crossing, though things are getting slightly more lenient and things are changing. If they cannot sail due to a blow-up, we lose the validity of the inspection after 72hrs and have to start again! Artics can get stuck here for days sometimes, waiting for the weather to calm down.
So eventually the cattle are delivered by proxy to your friendly farmer. You have to have complete trust in him and his judgement as he looks after your silly heifers that get in all sorts of trouble. We did have one break it’s leg after an exuberant bulling session and had to try and still smile after a total loss! Then it’s on the computer and book the plane on the sale day, another couple of hundred pounds!
We do try and sell direct as at least we have taken one variable out of the equation. We have quite a few clients that come over the once, see the standard of the herd and after the first picked load, pick up the phone and ask for another lorry load!
Barrens and calves are another story… there is no market here on the island at present for either of them.