Keeping our grazing cattle fit and healthy

Keeping our grazing cattle fit and healthy
July 4, 2013 Adrian Walters

The riverside pastures looked spectacular through May and June with a golden carpet of meadow and creeping buttercup. Such a show in our countryside really harks back to a pre-herbicide era when all pastures and meadows were full of a variety of wild flowers. Buttercups may be extremely common but massed in their millions they certainly put on a spectacular display. The reason for this show is down to the cattle grazing density which ensures that the coarser vegetation does not become dominant. At the same time the grazing is not so severe as to lose such curiosities as adder’s tongue and round-fruited rush.

Elsewhere on the riverside the grazing regime may be rather different in order to accommodate swathes of early marsh, common spotted and pyramidal orchids. The former are now well over and slowly ripening their seeds to add to the increasing populations but attractive pyramidal orchids are now in flower.

By the second week of June fledgling kingfishers were perched on the mill race trees calling vociferously for food from their hard-pressed parents. What a change from last year when flooding wiped out two consecutive broods. The river channels through the Sudbury Common Lands provide very suitable nesting opportunities for kingfishers and it is a very rare day when one is unable to see or hear these beautiful birds.

A considerable amount of work has been undertaken along much of the Valley Trail over the past fourteen months and although more remains to be done the results of the work are encouraging with the wayside flora responding well. Sometimes management work is of an extremely simple nature. Last year the flowers of the twayblade orchids along the trail were nearly all eaten off by Muntjac. This year the plants were covered with dead stems of ivy which put off the deer from browsing the delicate blooms and seventy three plants were able to flower. The resulting seed will help to ensure the future of this orchid colony.

It is worth noting that the only predictable thing about livestock farming is its unpredictability. At any moment lameness or infection such as New Forest eye may strike. A considerable amount of work has had to be carried out in checking over one hundred head of cattle for signs of bacterial infection and, where necessary,  treatment or removal from the pastures of the afflicted animals. New Forest eye is spread by flies and, if left unchecked, can very quickly lead to blindness in the afflicted cattle.

In late June, a small heifer surprised everyone by being ‘in calf’. She was seen trying to give birth on the Sudbury Common Lands. Such moments can be rather stressful but it is thanks to those who do make the effort to report such matters swiftly that there is a chance of a favourable outcome. Following removal from the pastures and with much veterinary assistance the heifer gave birth to a healthy calf so on this occasion there was a fortunate outcome.