Winter Wonderland

The farm this Winter has been awesome.Frosty mornings, fires at night and a stew or two. 

Reminds me of Tassie…but not as cold

Modern art Berrico style – frozen cow poo.

Cowgirl boots minus the cowgirl

Truth be said, I will miss the winter mornings.

For the cows it means extra feed and TLC.

PS Shawn this post is for you.

For Whom The Bell Tolls…

So, for the last six weeks, we have been busy getting our Black Angus steers ready for sale.

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This has meant making sure that the cattle have plenty of feed and putting them through the yards to check their weight and teeth, as young cattle of around 400 – 450 kilos, with only two teeth, fetch a higher market price.

Now, checking an unwilling steer’s teeth is not as simple as it sounds, particularly when it weighs half a tonne. It involves putting the beast into the cattle crush, levering its head upward with your shoulder and prising open its mouth to check the molars. Rest assured, it was much more painful for me than it was for them!

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We have also been checking ear tags and NLIS numbers (basically, cow registration numbers) to make sure that when the steers are sold, the authorities know where they have come from and who they are going to. This means completing a bunch of forms in triplicate and electronically transferring the cattle on the NLIS database. You gotta love bureaucracy.

Unfortunately for the steers, however, “sale” in this instance does not mean the boys will be heading off to another farm to frolic in the fields. It entails a one way trip to Wingham abattoir where they will ultimately end up on someone’s plate in Asia. At the same time, our old bull, Daz, will also be leaving us as our breeders will join with a new bull in the not too distant future.

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I guess this brings home the nature of raising cattle. As much as we have grown fond of the Angus steers and Daz, when it is all said and done, they are not pets. They are farm animals and their journey is near its end.

Rain, Glorious Rain

After 3 months of not a drop of rain, the heavens have opened and the Berrico Creek is flowing again.Berrico (Oct Nov 2013) 150Berrico (Oct Nov 2013) 156

For a while there, things were starting to look a bit grim. Our dams were low and it was hot, damn hot. As with everything in the country, you ask a local for their opinion, including on all matters weather related.
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The general response seemed to be, “Don’t worry, city boy. It will rain. Not sure when but it will rain.”

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And, thankfully it did.

As an aside, we negotiated the return of our crazy Belted Galloway steers. We were sad to see them go but they had broken one fence too many. I wish them well.
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That’s Gotta Hurt…

This could be a delicate subject for male readers, so please cross your legs now.

Another weekend in the sun at Binalong, working hard, eating what I shouldn’t and having a laugh with mates.

We are finally close to finishing the fencing for our second back paddock which will be a big help in rotating the steers across the pasture on the farm. At the moment, they eat and wander wherever they want which is great for the beasts but they go wild pretty quickly.
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So, after banging in fence posts, straining wire and “tying off” (tying the barbed wire to the posts”), we turned our attention to drenching the steers. Drenching involves putting the beasts through the cattle yards and squirting a liquid (ie drench) on their backs to kill lice and other parasites. This needs to be done every 3 months or so to keep the beasts in top shape.
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Now, earlier in the day, our neighbours had told us that one of our crazy Belted Galloways had escaped into their property and was trying to get to their heifers (female cows). This shouldn’t happen with steers as their interest in females should have disappeared (along with their testicles) at an early age.

Our neighbours kindly offered to put him through their yards so we could check whether, in fact, he had been properly neutered.

Now never having searched for a beasts balls before I was a little unsure as to what to do. With the encouragement of our neighbours to “get in there”, I took the plunge and indeed found a very large bull’s testicle where there should have been none.
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Back at our yards, we drenched our remaining steers and checked their tackle, finding that a least 3 were “proud” as the farmers say.
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This leaves us with a difficult dilemma, to either “cut” the steers (which requires no explanation) or return them to their original seller. “Cutting” the steers would leave them prone to infection and requires a more steady hand than mine, so I will be calling for their collection early next week.
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Postscript: the steers again broke their fences and, after 6 hours of chasing them round the neighbours paddocks we got most of them back. The joys of farm life……
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Harsh Reality

So, our weekend began by celebrating my youngest son’s birthday with five of his mates up at Binalong. Happy birthday Champ!

The kids love the farm, particularly the boys. 600 acres of playground where they can pretty much do whatever they want (under the watchful eye of an extremely responsible parent…my wife).

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Anyway, after the ute rides, feeding the cows, way too much sugar and general mayhem, the birthday boy and his pals departed for Sydney on Sunday afternoon and I turned to my long list of chores.

First things first – feed the cows. Armed with some stale bread, we ventured to the back paddock to move our hay baler and check on the beasts. Whilst entertaining my son’s pals, I had noticed that we seemed to be one steer short. I put it down to either me miscounting or one of the animals hiding in the bush. But as my eldest boy, Jack, and daughter, Emmy, helped with dishing out feed, I definitely counted only 20 steers. One of our crazy Belted Galloways was missing.

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My first thought was that the bugger had escaped the farm again and we would have to send out a search party. But before doing so, I wanted to walk the boundary fence to make sure the steer wasn’t injured.

Now, the back paddock is approximately 16 hectares so not the smallest area to walk round. However, after a couple of hours of traipsing up hill and down dale I made it to the last section of boundary fence.

Unfortunately, our missing Galloway was down, laying on his side and breathing shallowly. I walked over to see if the steer had any visible injuries as I was worried he may have been attacked by wild dogs as our neighbour had recently warned us there had been a number of sightings.

Inexplicably, the Beltie was suffering from a very nasty wound to its eye which had become infected. No other injuries were visible but the beast was suffering badly, being more of less unable to move. After making a couple of frantic calls to our more experienced farming friends, I decided that the most humane thing to do would be to put the animal down which I quickly did.

Whilst not the most “emotionally sensitive” bloke to have ever walked the face of the earth, I have to say that this experience has left a bitter taste as, instead of raising the Galloway to maturity and it providing a source of income and food for our families, I was putting it out of its misery and burning its carcass on a bonfire. I am guessing that any farmers reading this will tell me to harden up but you would have to have a heart of stone not to become attached at some level.

Interestingly, my son and daughter seemed to take it in their stride. There were no tears, just an acceptance that this was the right thing to do by the steer. Throughout the whole episode, our remaining beasts seemed to sense something was not right, gathering round the ute as I made the calls to seal its fate and filing up to the bonfire, almost like a funeral procession

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I guess this is the reality of the farm and ultimately it’s the animals that bear the burden.

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