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A semi-white Christmas at Cultybraggan Farm:
frost rather than snow in 2006
Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie,
Filed 26 Dec 06
On Christmas day as the forecasters forecast -
which is not always the case - the sky was grey and the frost was
hard. The frost was a hoar frost which gave a semi-white appearance
to the ground and to structures such as gates, trees and roofs.
In spite of lagging, the plumbing to the water
troughs in the cattle shed freezed up. Fortunately, the nearby burn
was still running, so the beasts could be let out in an organised
manner to get a good drink before going back to their comfy bedding
of straw, their silage and feedmix - and, in the case of the autumn
calvers, to their calves who have additional access to a spacious
creep where they can frolic or sleep, or sample their special grub
or go through the narrow gate back to mum for a sook.
But just to add to the hassles of the stockman,
an athletic Aberdeen Angus pedigree calf, of barely a month old,
decided that this was an opportunity to go for an exploratory reconnoiter
up the farm driveway to the public road.
Hoar frost and misty grey skies
charaterised Christmas 2006
Bodies such as the Scottish Agricultural College
(SAC as they no prefer to be called) claim that out wintering of
cattle is the way forward, with substantial financial savings. But,
prior to this frost, the weather had been intensely wet with strong,
sometimes gale force, winds for many days on end. The combination
of rain and wind is hard on cattle, making it difficult for them
to find any dry, sheltered place to lie.
No matter how thick-skinned they may be,
no beast likes persistent rain and gales. Cattle can deal fine with
dry frost, equipped as they are with kilowatt internal heaters.
But wet, wind and cold together is another matter. Sodden ground
can be severely damaged by the hoofs of cattle (poaching) and by
vehicles - be they tractors, pickups or quad bikes - trying to get
to them bearing feeding. When the frost follows, the poached ground
becomes rock hard, very uneven and
difficult to walk on, for both man and beast.
In earlier years some Cultybraggan cattle were
out-wintered, and some did well. But it was time-consuming as the
cattle were on the highest part of the farm. It was also hard on
the machinery with the deep tracks so created. This winter seemed
to be wetter and windier than others. Whatever SAC might say, it
did not seem a good idea - at least for this farm - to out-winter
any cattle this year.
Looking after livestock is a 365 days a year job,
extending to 366 days in a leap year: in all weathers.
One wonders how many urbanised folk give
it a thought as they tuck into their festive feasting.