Dairy cows and calves
We take calf welfare very seriously on the farm. The majority of dairy calves and their mother's are separated at birth, with many dairy bull calves in particular exported to the Continent. Most of these dairy calves are fed on mixed powered milk replacer at set times of day and kept inside up until they have reached a certain age. Here at Tory Hill House we do things a bit differently.
This year, all the calves born to our four dairy ladies were fostered by older dairy cows. This is called a nurse cow system. It means the calves can feed whenever they like and have an adoptive mother to nurture them. It also means we can let the calves out much earlier into fresh pasture because they aren't dependent on us humans for milk. Instead they can get it straight from their adoptive mothers!
These calves and their adoptive mothers will stay together until the calves are about six month of age, which is a normal time to wean cows and calves, and give cows a rest.
In our suckler herd, it's normal for cows and calves to stay together with calves suckling from their own mothers. Cows and calves stay together until the calves are about six to seven months of age, at which point they are weaned gradually from their mothers.
What we've noticed about keeping cows and calves together is that calves will natually learn from the older cows, but will also form their own peer groups and play and learn from each other. These bonds can last lifetimes and we still see calves that grew up together remaining friends later in life.
Native Irish Black Bees
In 2021, Hannah noticed that there were very few bees on her farm and a lower than normal apple harvest. She was worred that not enough was being done to support Ireland's native bee population and got her first hive - she now has three and can identify the pollen from wildflowers in the meadows where they graze cattle.
Tory Hill practices Holistic or Mob grazing which is a technique where wildflowers and grasses are given time to blossom and bloom. This allows pollinators and insects the chance to feed on them and helps to create layers of carbon as cattle trample the grasses into the earth. Cattle are regularly moved to prevent permanent damage to the fields.
The family is fascinated by wildlife and are keen to create sanctuary areas on their farm. They have built ponds, erected bird boxes, planted native hedgerows and let meadows flourish. They've also built an otter holt! Hannah read a report from 1994 citing that otters were in the area but no one has ever seen any on the farm. Fingers crossed that will change this year!
Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha
The four British Friesian ladies on the farm are the primary milkers and are inseparable. They have stuck together through various boyfriends and work related drama, and can regularly be seen in a collective group gossiping and eating. Hence why they've earned their Sex and the City spin off farm series.
Mrs Murphy is one of the 10 pedigree Hereford cows living on Hannah's farm. She is a big lady who loves her food but unlike her sisters on the farm does not enjoy scratches. She has lots of milk for a beef cow and has only ever produced bull calves but Hannah REALLY wants her to have a heifer to keep breeding from her line.
Not to be outdone by the cows. We also keep a number of hens, ducks and geese on the farm. There has always been a Mrs Goose, and the name has stuck and passed to successive generations of mother geese. There is usually also a gander lurking in the mix who has been known to take on anyone from foxes to farm workers if they get too close to Mrs Goose.