Cotswold Farming with Adam Henson
PUBLISHED: 12:48 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:44 28 February 2013
It'll soon be time to start calving our rare breed herds – and one breed is a particular favourite, says Adam
The glorious Gloucester
Following the heavy snow in January that caused serious disruption across the country and made working conditions and life for the animals living outside pretty tough, hopefully Spring is just around the corner. Its time to plan for calving, lambing, fertilizer spreading and spring planting.
The tourism side of the business, the Cotswold Farm Park, opens on March 13 and were in the process of putting up a new livestock building, improving the entrance area and giving a makeover to a food outlet to serve hot drinks, sandwiches and ice creams. Its hard to imagine lots of happy visitors scoffing ice lollies as we work away in our winter woollies.We keep six different breeds of cattle to have on display at the Farm Park and calving the first batch of Gloucesters, White Parks and Highlands is just around the corner.
The Gloucester is probably my favourite breed of cattle and of course one of our county breeds. They were originally a triple purpose breed used for milk production, draught work and meat. Theyre a beautiful dark mahogany colour with a distinctive white stripe down their back and tail. The cows are docile and a pleasure to work with, giving birth with ease and capable of rearing at least one calf.
The Gloucester is famous for its Double and Single Gloucester cheese and Sir Edward Jenner used the blood of a Gloucester cow to create the first anti-smallpox serum in 1796. Sadly, as farmers were encouraged to up food production and higher yielding breeds like the Holstein for milk and the continental beef breeds for meat became popular, the Gloucester fell into decline and became rare. It was only thanks to my father and a handful of other farmers that helped save the bred from extinction.
Unfortunately for my cattle and thousands of other cattle farms around the country, TB is a constant threat. Despite millions being spent on trying to combat the disease there seems to be very little light at the end of the tunnel. As Gloucestershire is a TB hot spot, our herd has to be tested every year. The cattle are injected in the neck with a TB inoculum and three days later the vet returns to see if lumps have formed showing up as a reactor. If this is the case then those animals are taken for compulsory slaughter. The farm is then closed down meaning that no live animals can leave the farm unless they are going to the abattoir.
Were in this situation at present and this remains the case until the cattle have passed two clear tests, 60 days apart. Thankfully the risk of people catching T.B from cattle now that milk is pasteurized is negligible. For me the devastation of losing often prime breeding stock that show no physical signs of being ill is bad enough. On top of that, the effect of being closed down stops all our breeding stock sales to other Rare Breed enthusiasts and puts pressure on the business financially, physically and emotionally.
I have my fingers crossed for our next test and hopefully we will have a good crop of healthy calves.
Adam Henson is the tenant farmer of 1,600 acres in the Cotswolds, a TV presenter on Countryfile, appears on Radio 4 programme On Your Farm and also runs the Cotswold Farm Park.