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A Shetland Cow (Part 2)

Our intention was to have Pepsi as a house cow and a suckler cow as she obviously had plenty of milk, too much for the calf. It was then our first problem arose; the cow that had placidly walked into the shed now went to attack anyone and everyone, the dog, the chickens. We called in our ‘professional’ farming friends who were only to happy to come and help out the amateurs, well till they got here. After many ‘fool proof’ ideas had been tested she was chained up in the stall and milked by Jane. Pepsi stayed in the stall for a few days in the hopes that she would calm down. Milking was not that calm peaceful time 1 had imagined. It was frequently spilt milk and the bucket rattling round the shed. Clots in the milk started our getting to know all the vets in the Rothbury practice. She was treated for mastitis but not before the vet got a thump in the backside from a horn. We were left with instructions on how to administer the tube of antibiotics into the teat. Sounds easy until hooves are very near ones hands and head for cows can kick with both front and back feet with incredible speed and accuracy.

A few weeks later another vet visit to treat a damaged teat. Word gets around and the new junior lady vet got the short straw and her anxiety made Pepsi get more agitated; she hates injections and can whip a needle out and through the shed door with an amazing deft swish of the tail. Naturally the teat was very sore and she would not let it be touched by me or the calf and mastitis came. Eventually with ropes tying her legs together, all other ‘never fails ‘ techniques having been tried, we managed to remove the poison from the infected quarter.

The pleasure of keeping a cow had turned into a stressful time. We had contacted Linda (previous owner) for advice several times and she said if we could not cope she would take Pepsi back. I had got to the stage of saying if things don’t get better in four weeks that’s it she is going back.

Then slowly milking became less of a problem and getting her in and out the field simpler and 1 could lead her as she wore a head collar. The calf Fred grew a pace and was a bouncy lad, leading us a merry dance when being halter trained.

With advice from Linda a bull Lawrie St Trinians was selected from the Rare Breed Survival Trust semen bank; they send straws of semen to the local AI centre. Being novices at identifying when a cow is receptive we used the method of giving a hormone injection (another vet’s bill) followed by a fixed number of hours before insemination. Nine to ten weeks later a vet friend came and confirmed that she was in calf.

As autumn progressed Fred was drinking more than his fair share, so they came in at night with Fred being shut in his own part of the shed to entice him in he would get a handful of rolled barley. Pepsi got rolled barley and hay at milking time to keep her occupied, a kick of the bucket being her signal if the hay had run out.

Cattle like most animals get worms. Commercial herds are given a slow release bolus or drench but 1 did not fancy trying to force anything down Pepsi’s throat so got a pour on wormer She objects to that and tries to lick it off. Care had to be taken that it was not of a type that would upset Fred or the milk.

Keeping a cow involves moving a lot of muck and paper, at times it seems in almost equal quantities. The farm gets a CPH number, the herd has to have a herd number, each animal has a passport, numbers and ear tags. If a rare breed, and registered, then the society records, plus membership of the RBST for the bull. Movement records are kept in the approved book and each movement reported, the medicinal records kept in another approved book. No one tells you this when you start out and each piece of paper required by law seems to come from a different department. You are not told which and have to find out by repeated trial and error because all the farmers know don’t they?

The Philipsons