Jill Thorp takes heart from the words of Captain Sir Tom Moore after a tough week on the farm

Our cow shed has been a hive of activity, with all but three of our cows giving birth to beautiful, healthy calves.

The words of Captain Sir Tom Moore bring comfort at the farm on the M62
The words of Captain Sir Tom Moore bring comfort at the farm on the M62

Paul’s regular night-time checks have ensured that they all arrived safely and got their much-needed colostrum as soon as they could stand.

Our old bull, Herbie, managed to catch a few cows before old age and ill health caught up with him. The more recent calves are all Ozzie offspring, our young replacement bull from last year.

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But as is always the case with farming, where there’s life, there’s death and sadly for us, despite almost all our calves arriving without any hiccups, a heartbreaking tragedy occurred last week.

Following a successful morning of scanning our hill sheep, we headed down to the cow shed to check on the last few expectant mothers. There were no new arrivals, but whilst feeding a cow who had calved the day before, we discovered she’d laid on her calf.

In all our years of farming, it was a first for us. It’s not uncommon for sheep to lay on their young, especially if they have more than one. But we’d never experienced it with cows.

After such a smooth ride throughout calving, it was utterly heartbreaking to discover the still body of the calf. Unable to contain my shock or emotions, I left Paul and his brother, Casey, to deal with the situation.

Despite being a farmer’s daughter and now a farmer’s wife, I’ve never hardened to the harsh reality of farming and all that comes with it.

My soft, somewhat over-sentimental character, combined with the poor state Covid had left me in, meant I was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of this calf.

A lovely heifer, she would have spent her life with us, joined our ever-growing herd and had calves of her own.

The waste of life, a perfectly formed body who had only hours before been suckling on her mother, now gone.

We’re faced with life and death on a daily basis, but this calf wasn’t ill, she hadn’t been struck down by pneumonia or milk scours, she’d lost her chance at life down to a ridiculously stupid accident.

Having his practical head on, Paul was quick to find a replacement calf for her, one to fill the space her own calf would inevitably leave. She took it without hesitation.

Ordinarily I would be over the moon, no endless battling to get a reluctant calf to suck whilst dodging well-aimed kicks from an unobliging cow.

I stood watching them, the calf quick to latch on, the cow grateful for a calf. No doubt, great to see and a huge relief, but the lifeless body laying outside in the yard would haunt me for many nights.

As I relayed the events of our awful week to my mother she reminded me of the words of Captain Sir Tom, “Tomorrow will be a good day”, and inevitably it was. Another calf arrived, more Leicester lambs entered the world and the sun shone.

The curlews and lapwings could be heard above the din of the motorway and slowly our health returned.