The Doodale Fold of Highland Cattle
In 2014 we decided to introduce animals to the farm. Following some investigations and discussions and visits to 2 farms we decided to build up a fold of Pedigree Highland Cattle. We started with 2 yearling heifers from David Shepherdson at Ruston, shortly followed by 2 cows with heifer calves at foot, from Robert Phillip at Hellifield. In our desire to expand rapidly we added 2 more yearling heifers, and 3 more cows with bull calves at foot from Hellified. This gave us a starter fold of 14 cattle. We decided to name our cattle “The Doodale Fold” after the woodland area at the side of our meadows. We also joined the Highland Cattle Society.
In March 2015 our first calves were born. It was a worrying but exciting time. The biggest surprise was when one of the cows gave birth to twins!! It happened overnight so we could only puzzle over why there were 5 cows and 6 calves in the field!! It is very rare for Highland Cows to have twins.
In 2016 we had 5 more calves. No twins this year. Then 7 calves in both 2017 and 2018.
Our first calf of 2019, Jessie, was born on 5th April followed by another in May, Dyson (son of Diana) and 2 in June, Amber and Rason (son of Raonaild). We are awaiting 3 more in September as it seems that the bulls took an unapproved holiday from August to October last year.
In 2014 the cows we bought were already pregnant.
In 2015 we decided to use a bull from Robert Phillip at Hellifield and in June Aaron of Hellifield arrived.
Zues of Glenkinglass arrived in 2016 to service the 5 cows and 2 of the heifers, courtesy of Robert Bradbury of Moorside. We decided to retain one of Zues’s bull calves for future breeding. Alexander is now 2 and father of Amber born in June 2019.
In 2017 we purchased our own bull – Toby 1st of Edgewold. He is the father of all our calves born in 2018 and 3 of the calves born in 2019.
The cattle year
Ideally, the year starts in April when the calves are born but sometimes nature dictates that the calves are a little later. In 2019 we have calves expected in April, June and September!!
By December, at 8 months old, the calves have grown significantly, are eating grass, hay and silage (as well as having warm milk available 24/7) and are ready to be separated from their mothers. The calves are housed indoors for a few months to enable us to socalise and halter train them. Calves born later in the year will spend the whole winter outside with their mother’s before being separated in early Spring and may never be housed.
Ideally, the bull is introduced in mid June so that the next calves will be born in April the following year. Cows giving birth later in the year are put in with the bull once we are happy that the cow is looking after the calf and the calf is healthy. In theory, a cow can give birth to the next calf about 11 months after the last so we hope to eventually achieve all our cows giving birth in April, but it may take many years. The bulls are removed from the cows in mid December to avoid any births after the end of September the following year.
The vet visits and scans the cows to check whether they are in calf 6 weeks after the bull has been removed.
Health of Cattle
We aim to minimise the treatments that we administer to the cattle. We check for worms and fluke and only treat if necessary and control flies during the warmer months as needed. Prior to introducing the bull we vaccinate for BVD and Leptosperosis.
The cows have their feet trimmed twice a year. Their claws (toes) grow significantly on the soft meadowland.