The ground we farm is pretty wet so through the winter we bring in all the cows. With all the cows in it means we have daily chores, such as feeding and bedding, to make sure they stay happy and healthy.
When the grass gets water logged the cows hooves sink into the grass and they can basically churn a grass field into a mud bath. Although it doesn’t necessarily do them any harm, when the field goes hard again in the summer it would no longer be smooth. With the grass no longer growing if we were to keep them out we would need to take feed round everyday, by having them inside this avoids these issues. Finally we also calf over the winter and early spring, by bringing them back inside, it means we can monitor them and the new arrivals.
We have a couple of main cow sheds that allow us to separate out the various groups of cows. For example we have a group of younger cows, a group of expectant mothers and one group of mothers and calves.
To keep the sheds nice and the cows clean we straw down the cows everyday- this simply means fill the sheds with fresh straw they can lay on. A few years ago we used to drop a big round bale into the sheds, roll it out by hand and use a fork to spread it about. Not only time consuming and hard work but it can be quite dangerous to be focusing on spreading straw whilst surrounded by cows if nobody else is about to watch your back.
Now we have a straw chopper, it goes on the back of the tractor and you drop in the straw bale. Once the straw bale has been unwrapped the back lifts up and effectively moves the bale inside the machine (Picture 1). The giant cog then turns and breaks up the bale taking layer by layer as it spins round (Picture 2). Then it’s just a case of switching it on, making sure the spout is pointing where you want the straw to go and driving! (Picture 3)
It spurts straw all over the sheds and the cows love it- especially the calves who seem to frolic about in it like its snow! As we have bars in the cow shed you do get some in the main aisle and stuck on the bars that needs clearing up at the end but that’s it.