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Busy week sees bull arrive for work at Gressenhall Farm

PUBLISHED: 11:01 23 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:01 23 June 2020

Our bullish visitor. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Our bullish visitor. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

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As part of a weekly diary, curator MEGAN DENNIS from Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse talks about the new bull and sheep arrivals.

Hooray for rain! Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceHooray for rain! Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

It has been a busy week.

A bull has arrived on the farm to spend his holidays! He has come from Tony Barratt’s herd of Red Poll cattle at Docking. Of course he isn’t really on his holidays – he has a very important job to do.

Carrot Delivery at Gressenhall Farm. Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceCarrot Delivery at Gressenhall Farm. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

He is needed to sire our calves for next year, and he has already risen to the challenge and sprung into action. He will stay on the farm for around six weeks – this is to make sure that all of our cows are pregnant.

We get them tested by our vets around three months after the bull has gone home to make sure they and their calves are developing well.

Reg and Remus eagerly awaiting carrots (we didn’t let them eat them all!) Picture: Norfolk Museum ServiceReg and Remus eagerly awaiting carrots (we didn’t let them eat them all!) Picture: Norfolk Museum Service

Rectal palpation is the cheapest and most convenient method of pregnancy testing cattle. They feel for the calf’s head, a pulse in the artery supplying blood to the uterus, and the shape of the cow’s uterus. 

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The calves will be born around nine months after conception. Usually we are very successful with our cows and they regularly give birth to healthy calves with little or no help.

The bull will also pay a visit to our British White cow. The resulting calf will be a cross breed – a mixture of Red Poll and British White. Interestingly these calves are always black and white – never dark red like the Red Poll or with red splotchs. Our British White cow has calved every year since she arrived on the farm; all male calves (steers) except one heifer (female cow).

Jimbo’s New Shoe. Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceJimbo’s New Shoe. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

The calves stay with their mums until they are around nine months old and then we sell them locally.

The heifers are sold for breeding and the male calves go on to new owners for fattening for beef. Only pedigree steers from a registered breeder become a lucky stallion used for breeding.

As well as the bull we have some new arrivals in the sheep field. We received six Norfolk Horn lambs from the National Trust Wimpole estate in Cambridgeshire. Unfortunately, we only had two lambs born at the farm this year, so this additional six will form our new breeding stock. It is great to see them settling in!

This week it was Jimbo’s turn to lose a shoe – now safely replaced. And the horses were pleased to have a delivery of carrots – they do enjoy a sweet treat!

Although the weather has been grey we have been happy for all the rain which means our crops have been able to recover a little from the very dry May and early June. We hope your vegetable patches and gardens are flourishing too!


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