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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Wrapping up the old and preparing for the new

December brought the first snow that has settled since the project started in spring 2021, and very beautiful it was too. It was not so deep that the pigs and cattle could not feed so the main issue was making sure that the animals had access to water. Troughs were freezing over. For a few days that could be dealt with, but as the pipes froze too it all became a bit more tricky.

Fancy an icy dip? Frozen trough and hammer to clear the ice ...

Fortunately, Cefn Garthenor is blessed with ditches and running water which does not freeze at the temperatures we faced, so I was able to move the cattle and pigs to areas where they had good access. Robert, who helps with the cattle, did put one my big round bales (20 or so kept from the mowing last year) out for the cattle and Judi gave the pigs some feed just to make sure that they were OK.

Galloways and Tamworths are hardy critters and weathered the storm

The major problems came when the thaw began as while the track from the road was manageable in snow it became an ice run as it melted in the day and froze at night. We are pretty self-contained but inevitably needed a delivery of heating oil which was postponed due to the icy conditions and for a few days the water pipe to the house froze, but the water tank kept us going and the wood burning stove was welcome.

Winter weather dealt with, the major job during December was to get the cattle in for new batteries! The nofence system (see No fences? Tracking and collars for the Galloways ( suffers in the winter months as the solar panels on the collars get less light to recharge and the cold weather drains batteries more quickly. By the end of November most of the cattle were on 0% charge which meant the system became ineffective and I had to use the physical fences we have, which, while good at on the external boundary, are pretty poor internally. Lots of bailer twine was required to secure some pretty lame gates. It all looked pretty shambolic but did the job!

Robert and I got the cattle in to the barn on the promise of a tasty snack. They will follow you to most places on the sound of a bucket of feed being shaken. They then had to leave one at a time via the cattle crush, where they can safely be held still while the collar is removed, and battery swopped, before putting it back on fully charged. I tend to put the cattle through the barn whenever they are close to the yard so they are reasonably comfortable with the idea and know that it is not always a bad thing. That makes things that are more stressful, but have to be done, such as like TB testing or this collar replacement, easier.

Galloways in the barn before they come out of the cattle crush on the far right, where they can be held while collar batteries are replaced

Finally, on Robert and Julia’s advice I decided to split the herd. Sir Loin, the only male, has hopefully had his way with all the ladies. Fingers crossed and we will have a bunch of new calves in the spring. However, Chunky, the calf born last year, is probably reaching an age where she begins to appear on Sir Loin’s radar. She is still too young for all of that, so the time had come to keep her out of his way. So, again via the barn, I separated Sir Loin and four of the ladies from the other seven. Over the course of a few days, we moved Sir Loin’s group away and over the hill at the north end of the land to put some distance between the group with Chunky and her mother, Gussy.

That sorted, all that was to be done was shovel shit! My barn gets little use (most farmers bring their cattle in for the winter at least), but still from time to time it needs clearing. Robert will use a tractor or a skid steer with a bucket attachment to clear a barn, but for me it is shovel and barrow … all my Christmases came at once!

Oh, and back to service as usual in wild, wet, west Wales. It’s been raining pretty solidly into early January … the Teifi valley below Cefn Garthenor is flooding and our drains are flowing fast. Time for better water management, but that’s a story for another day.

Flooded fields in the Teifi valley below Cefn Garthenor and one on the many ditches carrying water on Cefn Garthenor


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