A Unique Winter Experience on the Farm: Reflections from the Author and the Livestock | By Andrea Meanwell
As we transition to the winter season on our high-altitude farm, there will be a change in routine. Typically, our mornings and evenings are spent in the cow shed, providing silage to the cows as they exhale their warm, steamy breath over us. However, this year, we have amassed a herd of belted galloway cows and our plan is for them to be outwintered in spacious allotments, as it is well-suited to their needs, eliminating the need for extra feed.
This morning, I departed early to check on the well-being of the cows in Westmorland Borrowdale. The 2022 heifers are currently grazing in this area to preserve and revive the historic wood pasture. The grazing must be closely monitored to safeguard the aged trees, as well as the uncommon mosses and lichens growing on them. The herd consists of only seven cows in a vast 135-acre space. The goal is for the cows to control the growth of bracken in the designated area, preventing it from dominating, while also allowing natural regrowth from the existing trees. Additionally, new trees have been planted in enclosed woodlands and protective cages.
The cows may be hard to locate in a vast area, even with their noticeable wide belts. I am happy to see them on a hillside from afar and approach them to check on their well-being. They used to be kept in small fields at our home before being moved to these allotments, but now they recognize me and do not flee.
After a short time, they grow disinterested in my conversation and wander off to investigate the allotment. They appear content and well-nourished, but I must monitor them throughout the winter to ensure they have enough food. Our goal is to maintain the herd without adding any extra resources or medications, as much as we can. This minimalistic approach to farming will hopefully help our finances, especially with the decrease in income from the basic payment scheme.
Rewording: This method of operation will benefit both the land and the cows. The cows will have the opportunity to display their natural behaviors while living in the woodland during winter. Since we do not possess this land, the estate that owns the wood pasture receives the environmental payments. Therefore, our main source of income will come from breeding high-quality livestock, which is a long-term strategy.