Each Autumn we drive all of our Highland cattle down from our hill land on the Pentland Hills in a big round-up.
We do this so that we can perform full health-checks of our cattle, to check things like their feet (cows naturally have long toes, but we don’t want them getting too long, so this gives us a chance to trim any that need it – this is totally painless for the animal – the ends of the foot horn are like human finger/toe nails), eyes (to check for infection, damage), nose, teeth and tongue (these are essential to their survival – any problems with these can affect their eating and an animal with mouth pain with often stop eating or develop behavioural issues), coat quality (we want to see a nice full thick coat with healthy skin condition – the coats of cattle consists of layers of hair which work naturally as a water-barrier, heat regulator and thermal layer as well as a protective layer for the skin and body), horns (their horns grow continuously throughout their lives and we check that there aren’t any complications, such as them growing towards the body such as the eyes or face – and trim them if necessary and this is a very simple and painless procedure carried out by a vet) and general condition.
As our cattle live an entirely natural life in an organic environment (we do not regularly handle them or hand-feed them), the cattle drive is always a good few hours of gently moving them along the terrain in to the cattle pens at one end of the farm where we can get a really good look at them in a close-up and safe environment.
In previous years, some of the more agile of the herd have chosen the cattle pens as their spring-board into paradise and would jump the boundary fences on to the golf course and go galavanting off down the fairways. Cows can be incredible jumpers and once they’ve learned how to do it, they regularly kick-up their heels and the others then pick this up and follow-suit. So we’ve had to put in much taller fencing to stop their antics!
Once we’ve carried out our checks the cattle are quietly returned to the hills to carry on as they were.