Health of the herd

Posted by Oakhurst Farm Cottage - 4 May 2022 | Blog

The life of a dairy farmer isn’t an easy one. This is an early to bed, ridiculously early to rise existence, working almost round the clock to make sure that the thousands of litres of milk required by the milk truck, are ready for collection each day when it arrives on the farm. The aspects of running a successful dairy are numerous, but even the layman knows that without the cows, there’s not a hope in hell you’re going to get any milk. With this in mind, it goes without saying that the Oakhurst herd are a rather well-kept and happy bunch of ladies, with nothing spared to keep them in the best condition. Here’s a few ways we ensure that all’s kept well in our milking metropolis.

The front of the line enroute to afternoon milking at the dairy. (Photo: Safari Susters)

PACKING SOME PUNCH

The Oakhurst herd is made up of close on 1300 Jersey cows. The Jersey breed originates from Jersey in the British Channel Islands. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know it’s a cold and weather-beaten place in winter, where these cattle were bred to withstand cold and wet conditions. But, they’re also highly tolerable to heat, which is likely why they were first choice for European settlers, who brought them to our shores as milk producers. For their small size and light weight, Jersey’s produce an immense amount of milk – averaging around 16 litres per day, up to double that for freshly calved cows.

Not only are they great milk producers, they’re always pretty curious as well. (Photo: Safari Susters)

THE DAILY WATCH

Never a day goes by when the herd aren’t being closely observed by our team of stockman. These stockman know cattle like the back of their hands. Most of them having grown up in the rural Eastern Cape, where they tended their family herds from as young as 6 or 7 years old. When you’re this in tune with cattle behaviour, there’s little chance of an unwell cow going by unnoticed. This keeps potential problems being flagged up and dealt with sooner rather than later.

Kids just love a visit to the Oakhurst dairy.

BRING ON THE MEDICS

A large animal specialist vet visits Oakhurst every two weeks. He’ll take a general look at the herd and we’ll present any cattle which may need a professional opinion or prescribed medication. Equally as important are blood samples, which are taken by the vet for assessment and to keep a close check on any unwanted diseases. 

TB (Tuberculosis) and CA (Contagious abortion or Bovine brucellosis) free certification is vital to our operation. Each and every cow’s blood tests are also presented to the Western Cape Agriculture Department for inspection. Both of these diseases can be fatal to cattle, but can also spread bacteria to unpasteurised milk or other dairy products. Oakhurst dairy continues to proudly maintain a TB and CA free status.

Great veterinary care is key to keeping the herd healthy.

TAKING A DIP

Cattle graze close to the ground, meaning they do tend to pick up ticks and other insects while doing so. We take the vets advise and set up dipping programs which suit the age groups of various herd members. This ensures that we keep these potential diseases to a minimum.

WE’RE VAXERS

Without medication and vaccines, we’d be hard-pushed to run an efficient milk producing herd. Through years of observing what potentially affects the cattle in our region, each cow receives a routine annual set of vaccines to protect them against mostly insect-born diseases. That said, it’s the supportive, immune boosting medicines which we administer that prevent the outbreak of diseases and keep the herd medically healthy.

KNOCKS AND SCRAPES

With the internals covered, we take care of any daily scrapes and bumps. These include calving and any associated problems, foot care, hoof trimming and shaping, as well as artificial insemination to get the herd in calf. This is an important process to ensure a healthy closed-herd (meaning cattle are not introduced onto the farm from elsewhere).

Hoof trimming is undertaking by professionals on a regular basis.

THE FINAL WORD – IT’S ALL IN THE MILK

We’re always driving the Oakhurst operation towards a sustainable and environmentally conscious future. While the realities of a large dairy herd require some scientific intervention, without this, maintaining a happy and healthy bunch of cattle would be near on impossible. From soil and pasture quality to general health and well-being of each Oakhurst cow, it’s the milk that has the final say…drink a glass when you’re next at Oakhurst and you’ll have to agree, it’s simply delicious.

Make sure to get some fresh Oakhurst milk during your next stay.
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