Here at Coombe Farm Organic, we farm by Soil Association rules. That means we respect the land, conserve wildlife and – perhaps most importantly – adhere to the highest standards of animal husbandry. Our experienced team works with and checks our cattle every day. Knowing the animals and understanding their natural activities and behaviour is important for every stockperson. If you see them leaning on a gate checking out the herd, they’re not having a sneaky break, they’re actually sizing up the animals. But how do they know when everything’s OK and what are they looking that flags up a problem?
Overall appearance: cattle should be generally clean (within reason!), have perky rather than floppy ears and be bright-eyed. Sunken eyes are a sign of dehydration and cloudy patches or gunky bits suggest the animal isn’t 100%. As with humans, the nose should be clean, not green and snotty.
Mobility: lameness can be a big problem in a herd, especially when the ground is very wet and muddy or very hard and dry. Cattle should move by using all four legs and feet correctly and bearing weight evenly.
Breathing: should be even, regular and comfortable. Laboured breathing and coughing can be a sign of pneumonia, especially in young animals.
Sociability: as cattle are herd animals, it’s natural for them to want to be together. If an animal doesn’t hang out with the group or gets left behind, it’s usually a sign that it’s under the weather or something’s wrong.
There are five basic freedoms that all farm animals should enjoy:
• Freedom from hunger and thirst
• Freedom from discomfort
• Freedom from pain, injury and disease
• Freedom to express normal behaviour
• Freedom from fear and distress