Winter is a time of intense activity with the cattle. I feed them at dawn and dusk, and when the weather is severe I take them into the byre for shelter. The byre then gets a deep clean so that we are ready for calving. As the due dates approach, the cattle come into to the byre at night so I can check on them every few hours. This means getting up at 3am. On cloudless nights the stars are out in full force and it makes the sleep deprivation worthwhile.
In 2020 Ishbel and Caraid had two heifer calves, Julie and Magaidh, who are now 8 months-old. At the beginning of December they made the journey to Aikenshill Highlands over in Aberdeen along with 19 month-old Ciorstaidh. They are now very well integrated into their new fold and you can have a look at them on Aikenshill Highland's daily facebook live posts.
On the croft we now have Ishbel and Caraid who are both in calf, 19 month old Lily and 7 month-old Gille, so an easier number of animals to manage over the winter months, and plenty of room for the new calves in Spring.
Above is Coirstaidh, who loves to be part of the fold, she is very friendly and likes a lot of attention. Below left is Magaidh, who is shy at first, but extremely affectionate once you get to know her. Below right is Julie, who is adventurous and loves to know exactly what's going on. These three are now in a large fold with other young animals over at Aikenshill on the East coast of Scotland. They coped very well with their first ferry journey and are happy in their new home.
Above is nine-year-old head cow Ishbel with Coirstaidh at foot. Ishbel is bossy and confident but also very sensible. Below is eight-year-old Cara, who is more sensitive and wary, but also loves affection and combing.
Lily is much more reserved and self-contained, whereas Gille demands attention at all times.
The cattle have two coats – a soft short undercoat that they keep all year, and a long hairy top coat that keeps them warm and dry in winter, but is shed in summer. The iconic image of a highland cow tends to feature this long topcoat, so it may come as a surprise when you see highland cattle that are kept in warmer climates, as they will not have their distinctive topcoat. The hair from their topcoats does not go to waste: the birds pick up the strands and weave them into nests. This nest was nestling in the branches of one of my rose shrubs.