ABOUT HERD HUSBANDRY
The cornerstone of the Greenoak approach to herd health is to maintain a stress free environment. The pace of life in a herd is slow and cattle respond to slow and quiet handling. Many of the cows in the herd are accustomed to leading and tying up and calves born into the herd seem easier to handle as they grow, having observed their mothers lack of fear of handling. The creation of a stress free environment minimises susceptibility to disease. The three unavoidable stress periods of calving, weaning and slaughter can be reduced considerably. At calving cows are in familiar fields and are left to find their own favoured spot to give birth. Shortly after cow and calf are brought in to a covered pen for two or three days, this is by no means essential, but it is noticeable that calves handled within the first few hours of birth are less nervous of human contact later.
Weaning is another stressful period both for cow and calf. Sudden separation results in three of four days of constant calling and pacing to find the lost partner. This behaviour can be almost eliminated by fitting the calf with a temporary device in their nose that prevents sucking. So while both parties adjust to the cessation of suckling or being suckled they remain close. After four or five days cow and calf can be separated without any apparent distress.
It is unfortunate that government legislation now prevents home killing and butchering of beef animals, undoubtedly the most stress free way to slaughter. However, we are fortunate to have a small, newly built abattoir about an hours drive away, where animals can be brought in and quickly despatched.
Herd Health Policy
No routine vaccination is practiced in the Greenoak Herd. An annual blood testing on a proportion of the herd monitors freedom from commonplace bovine diseases and we prefer this to precautionary vaccination. Any animal being brought into the herd undergoes a blood test to establish its health status. Routine worming has been found to be unnecessary as the low stocking rate minimises a parasite build up on the pastures. In many cases the stocking rate is 1 animal per 10 hectares (in intensive grazing management that can be reversed at 10 animals or more to the hectare) In addition the wide variety of plant life on conservation sites is known to contain medicinal properties, while little, if any scientific work is known to have been done on cattle ability to self medicate, we believe it happens.
Fortunately we have little need of veterinary intervention. Minor ailments are treated with Homeopathic or herbal medicines. If considered necessary we use conventional treatment such as antibiotics as the health and comfort of the animal is always paramount.