When you’re farming pretty much on your own most of the time, especially with cattle that weigh a great deal more, there are times when you can fear for your life.
It really doesn’t matter what kind of brazen attitude some macho farmers may have it still only takes a split second or lapse of concentration to suddenly be rendered unconscious, incapacitated or worse by a cow or bull that has freaked out for whatever reason.
Pip Dale of The Willows in Skirpenbeck near Stamford Bridge has a suckler herd of 70 Salers X Limousin cows and buys store cattle every Friday from Hexham, and from Stirling and Ayr. At any one time he has around 400 cattle.
When he wants to get to one specific animal in either the sheds where he keeps the store cattle he’s bought in, or the suckler herd out in the fields, he now has his own Dalesway Cattle Handler.
While he’s not aiming to become some flash manufacturer or retailer he feels that what he has come up with is something that other farmers would benefit from using.
“I made it for myself because I need to be able to go and do things on my own. I don’t have anyone else looking after the cattle. It’s all down to me and can be dangerous and time consuming. This gives me far more safety.”
Putting it simply the DalesWay Cattle Handler is a cattle pen attached to a telehandler/forklift which uses hydraulics to lift the galvanised steel pen and place it either straight over a beast or to open the pen’s gates so that the beast can be caught.
“Every cattle man knows how difficult it can be to isolate a beast so that you can take a look at it and do what you need to. When a calf has been born you need to get jobs done such as tagging, ensuring the navel is clean and dehorning.
“As the Salers calve out in the field I need to be able to get to them without them running off, and equally importantly I need to be safe from the mother whose hormones will be all over the place. She will see any involvement from me as something she won’t like.
“What I can do with this is go into the field, pop it over the calf and climb in to what then becomes a protective area from being attacked by the cow. I’ve seen cows biting at bars before now trying to get to their calf and me. There was a time last year when I had to take a look at a beast in one of the sheds. Liz (Pip’s wife) came with me and we walked the beast into the corner with the gates of the pen open as I drove gently up the shed. We trapped the beast inside and put her in the head yoke so that I could find out what was the problem.
“Sometimes it has been a matter of the cow not accepting its calf. By putting the cow in a head yoke the calf can then suckle properly. It beats them all careering off around the field and me wasting hours trying to get them.
“There have been occasions when I have left the pen in the field overnight so that a calf can suckle properly if its mother isn’t letting it do so normally.
“The beauty of having the pen in front of you on the forklift is that cattle often associate it with food being brought to them, so they come towards it.”
Pip enlisted the help of his long-term friend Derek Triffitt who has been involved in farm machinery manufacture for decades in order to bring the Dalesway Cattle Handler to wider attention. An all-new model was unveiled at Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show, held at York Auction Centre this Wednesday.
Speaking a day before the launch from his farm, Pip said: “What you see here on the farm is my original prototype. I’m not thinking about this making me lots of money it is more a case of feeling I ought to pass this on and that I have designed something that works for me and I believe will be useful to many others. All I would say is think of the time you waste trying to catch a bull or cow and how you can make it easier and safer for yourself to work with cattle.”
A little known fact about Pip is that he used to be a rally driver and competed in the RAC Rally five times, finishing fifth in the British Rally Championship in his last season. He can be contacted on 07714 283243 or firstname.lastname@example.org