some of you may know that we now have a new border collie puppy called Queenie. I thought I should say more about her. For starters she is the half sisters to Gwen. They both have the same mum but different fathers. Gwen’s dad was called Sam and Queenie’s dad is called Mick (mood Mick) as he likes to run the boundary of the field before he starts to move the sheep. Their mum has a bit of a temper on her she does not like people and has been know to leave the sheep she has been working to bite people on the near by foot path. That said both Gwen and Queenie are nice naturered. The main difference between Gwen and Queenie are as follows. Gwen is a bit nervous. She hates any thing new. Even if we move a cattle tank a couple of inches from where it previously was that’s is enough to cause Gwen to bark at it and growl. She also hates other dogs on he territory. And is completely freaked out by little people ( children). Any child she see is enough to make her run straight to her kennel as this is where she feels safe. Queenie on the other hand may only be 8 weeks old but is not fazed by anything. Loud bangs, cows, sheep or even pigs squealing. She just sits and watches. And for a puppy of her age she is very bold. At the same age Gwen would run home if she saw a cow, sheep or heard a strange noise. Queenie also has mastered how to steel food from Gwen and Molly. She walks straight up to them and the more they growl the more she keeps going. Till they give up and walk off, leaving her to hoover up all the food. Queenie is also very bright, (so is Gwen) they are both quick learners so you have to be careful what you show them as once learnt not easy for them to forget.

Many people ask how you train a border collie well you don’t. They are like children. All you do is let them grow up at their own speed. And correct their faults and praise their good behaviour. And be very patient. And you can’t go wrong. That said a border collie has an instinct to round up animal and bring them to their master. So the hardest thing to do with a collie is to get them to drive ( move animals away from you). Not impossible to teach a collie with plenty of strokes and ‘Good girl ‘ said in a happy cheery voice. The best way to discipline a collie is to growl and to change the tone of your voice make it deeper and more harsh sounding and then they know they have done wrong. But puppies do not need too much discipline as you can break their spirit and like a human with no dreams left they are not likely to work for you and are generally very unhappy dogs. The hardest thing to do with Gwen is to stop her from working. If you stand by the sheep pen and the sheep are at the top of the field she is off bringing them down to you wether you want them or not. And if ever we lose sight of her at home then she is usually by a slated gate watching the cattle to make sure they don’t escape not that they ever do. But more recently she can now been seen playing with Queenie. Running around at speed with Queenie chasing after her or jumping up the straw stack(Gwen can jump a 6 foot fence from a stand still) with Queenie sitting on the ground looking up at her in amazement. I think when Queenie gets a bit bigger she will be clearing 6 foot fences too. I’m really looking forward to seeing them working the cattle next year. Just like Gwen and Meg our old dog used to do.

The rise of the female butchers

It’s amazing how many people are still surprised to see a woman butchering. When so many typical male oriented jobs are now proudly boasting that they have females amongst their ranks. Such as firefighter, army officer and prime minister to name but a few. There was even a film about a female butcher a couple of years ago. So why do so many people still have a preconsidered concecption of a butcher as a fat balding middle aged man like the statues we see out side the high street butchers shops. There are now many more woman working in the trade. Such as myself. I have been butchering since I was 11 years old. I’m now 26 but by no means know all there is to butchering. As there is always something I can improve on or a new quicker and better way of doing it. Also with our multinationalnation there are many more people asking for cuts of meat that they get back home and can’t find in our super markets. This often throws up surprises as all animals carcasses are the same from country to country but our way of cooking and cutting is so very different. For example the french call us ”Les ros boeuf”as we like our traditional Sunday roast. The french also seam out their carcasses much more than we do giving them many more cuts. And they have dedicated stalls selling offal something we no longer have. But that said our local names for a cut of meat varies from county to county. We have a book purely giving us the regional names of cuts of meat.

So far from butchery being an old traditional trade it is evolving with the changing times and with that it brings in more new faces and ideas to the trade. The days of the traditional butcher are changing but not always for the best. It is the age old thing of change, evolve, and grow to survive or these age old trades are going to be lost to the sands of time. And that would make the world a far different place with out the local friendly butcher shop on our now more empty high streets.

So buy local and help to keep this trade going for future generations.

Our lame cows

This week we had to call the vet out .  As 3 of our cows had gone lame. At first we wondered if some thing had been washed up in the drinking hole. As all 3 cows were lame on the back left. On closer inspection we noticed that the drinking hole has many more flints visible. This is due to all the wet weather we had earlier on in the year and it washed away a bit more of the bank to expose the flints. The recent dry spell has also added to the problem by causing the ground to be harder than normal. So when the cows stood on the flints they do not sink into the ground and so prick the cows hooves causing them to go lame. The vet said that they have been getting lots of call outs to lame cows this year. It’s amazing how quickly a lame cow gets better with the correct  treatment from the vet. With in 2 days you would not know that there had been any thing wrong with them. Unlike humans who would still be limping. Just goes to show that a lot of the pain we feel is all in our heads. There is a lot to be said for just geting up and walking it off.

Dad many years ago broke his left ankle. When a shire horse knocked him over then stamped on his ankle. He thought that it was a bit sore but walked home. And thought no more off it till he went round a friends house. The friend was a vet and his girlfriend was a radiographer. They both took one look at his ankle and said ”whats wrong with your ankle?” Dad replied ” oh it swells up during the day and goes down at night”  they said ”thats broken!!” and insisted that he went to hospital. At hospital the x-ray revealed that he had indeed broken his ankle. He had been walking around on it for 3 weeks and chasing after cattle. The doctors gave him crutches and told him to rest it. Some thing no farmer is good at. Ps crutches make great sticks for loading pigs. That ankle never caused him any more problems.


I opened the local newspaper the other day to find a story about a cow which fell into the river Cam. On closer inspection of the photo I realised that the cows in the photo where ours. The paper reports that the cows looked concerned. To be honest they are very curious creatures and probably wondered what all the noise was about. It is not uncommon for cattle to fall in rivers especially when they are used to drinking from them. As all it takes is for one to lose it’s balance or to be knocked by another inpatient cow and they are in.

There are people in Cambridge called Pinders whose job it is to look after the cattle on the common land in Cambridge.They are paid by the council and by the people who own the cattle and they are on call 24/7. It was one of the Pinders who walked our cow back across the road after it got out of the river on the Hilton hotel lawn.

We have  it on good authority that one of our cows regularly swims backwards and forwards across the river. The Pinders put 9 of our cows one side of the river and 11 the other. Cattle are very good swimmers. Our cattle are used to being walked through rivers as the grazing land we rent is all water meadows and we find it easier to move the herd as a whole through the rivers rather than splitting them up and moving them by road in a trailer. It is also much less stressful on them. They are natural herding animals and get upset if you split them up. Cows are generally very inquisitive creatures. Many of our cows enjoy being stroked and they all come to a call from Dad. Not many people know that cattle can tell the time.

We once had a cow called Alice. She was from a dairy herd. We bought her to rear calves on as she was a good milker. We could not understand why a cow from a dairy herd did not milk better than she was. Then one afternoon at 4 o’clock Dad was walking round to the cow shed when he heard a sucking sound. There was Alice beside the gate where we kept the calves. She had positioned her self beside the gate so the calves could reach her teats. As he watched when they finished sucking one side she turned round so they could do the other side. The mystery was solved. And every day at 4pm and 4am the same thing would happen as these were the times that Alice was used to being milked. But she would only do this with Aberdeen angus (black) calves. She was a Freisan cow (black and white) but if you tried to put a black and white calf on her , she would jump out and she could clear a 6 foot fence from a stand still.

So cows can see clours and tell the time not so stupid after all.


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