Monday, 19 December 2011

Getting Stuck in Mud

Our paddocks slope gently (well, mostly gently) down to a canal and we have good drainage, so we don't have a problem with boggy ground in wet conditions. However no-one can escape mud at the moment. This is our second winter keeping livestock and as last year the ground was frozen solid for about 4 months we were not prepared for the skid-fest conditions that met us this weekend when we tried to drive a load of hay down to our shed. I watched as my husband (looking resigned to his fate) and dog (looking alarmed) skidded out of control in the 4x4 past the shed and headed for the ditch at the bottom of the slope. Luckily he managed to steer into a post and his fall was stopped. How stupid of us to try and drive on the steepest bit of paddock in these wet conditions.

Then, of-course, is started to rain and we quickly had to drag a ton of hay in bags up the slope to the shed. Joy.

We abandoned the pick-up. We had two choices - wait for better conditions (possibly in spring?) or get our next door neighbours JCB to pull the van out and have swathes of pasture carved up as a result. However it all came good in the end as the following morning we were blessed with the first (and possibly only) hard frost of the winter. The pick-up sailed up the hill without a care in the world. Phew.

More frosts please.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Art of Patience

After the last 4 weeks of being spat and moaned at and not being able to provide an A, D & E injection I finally got fed-up and contacted Julie Taylor-Browne of for some advice about my almost-berserk female (see previous posts). I felt that I was just not making much progress and was getting disheartened. Two years ago I went on Julie's 2 day Camelidynamics introduction course where I learnt (amongst many other things) about the benefits of using a body wrap on a nervous animal. This is when you tie a long bandage in a specific way around the body to form a sort of "hug" that releases happy endorphines and helps to calm an animal. Temple Grandin uses a similar technique with her "squeeze chute" for cattle (see and her book "Animals in Translation"). HOWEVER I don't fancy tying said bandage around this girl when I'm on my own in a remote location, she's big and strong and angry. However Julie has come up with an apparently very effective alternative - the neck wrap. So I've bought one from her website (it has a handy clipping mechanism) and will let you know how I get on.

After reading the articles on her website I now realise that I need to go at this girl's pace not mine, i.e. the learning process may take months and I need to give her plenty of time to assimilate and learn new behaviours. In the mean-time I need to get some A,D & E into her without having 2 men sit on her while I do it. So I'm going to get her into a mini-pen we have on-site and distract her with food, perhaps then I'll be able to lean through the pen bars and pop a quick injection into her shoulder skin without having to provide any further restraint (another Julie-tip). At the moment I can hold her round her neck happily while she's eating and feel along her body - I'm hoping food will provide not just a good distraction while I'm performing nasty husbandry procedures, but also a useful tool to help her learn to relax and behave calmly.

Also, everyone has started eating hay like it's going out of fashion. I've got some particularly sweet and green stuff this year. I often fancy a mouthful myself now the weather has turned inclement.