John Walton: The dog’s trip to the vets has proved very costly

Continuing our series, charting the ups and downs of seven farmers around the country, we find out what’s been happening on-farm in Cheshire.

We finished sowing grass reseeds over a month behind schedule on September 30. As most of it is red clover based, it is critical to get it in the ground during August while the soil is warm. On the positive side, the seeds have germinated and were showing within a week.

The winter oats and triticale yielded well this year with the oats doing 5t/ha (2t/acre) and the triticale 5.4t/ha (2.2t/acre), which is quite respectable organically.

The increased seed rates last year have worked and it is something we will repeat this year. The spring oats, though, were disappointing. It has been a a battle with them.

The cows are enjoying the unusually warm weather and we are managing to keep plenty of grass in front of them. We will keep them out as long as possible but will introduce the winter ration to the freshest calved cows to keep them going through the winter.

They are obviously used to dealing with insurance claims where money is no object

We have just completed third cut silage in perfect conditions. I was in trouble with Richard the herdsman as I sold 400 tonnes of silage as we had plenty after such a good first cut, so it was a relief to see the third cut come in and replenish stocks. Maybe there is a chance I will still get bitten on the bottom.

Max, my sheepdog, conveniently doubles up as a cow dog. Last week, he got belted by an over-responsive young girl, which resulted in damaged tendons and a trip to the vet.

It was a Saturday, the meter was already ticking when I was told it was serious and he would need a specialist. This is when my eyes were opened to what I can only describe as a rip off.

They are obviously used to dealing with insurance claims where money is no object. I was charged £140 for a 15-minute consultation with the vet before any treatment. Now I know we are a nation of dog lovers and I am guilty of that, but how far can you go when you know you are being ripped off?

Needless to say Max is doing fine, but very bored, and is now retired from cow duties. I might tell you next month what the final bill was consulting with the farm vet.

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