Gaddesden Herd

In the early 1970s I was service manager at a local garage. I lived in a cottage in little Gaddesden with my wife and young family. My parents lived in Ashridge in a property with some ground and outbuildings. As a hobby I kept some pigs and calves there and a few chickens at home.

I cannot remember who suggested that a jersey house cow would be a good acquisition. Mr J. King, who lived in Albury, the next village, had a fourteen month old jersey heifer for sale. A deal was done and the animal was collected during my lunch break. Two workmates were enrolled to manhandle the animal into the back of my short wheelbase Land Rover. One then held the front end and one the back end while the animal was in transit. Fortunately it was not a very long journey but certainly different if the same journey was made to day.

It was 1974 and there were no restrictions on animal transport, no cattle passports and no British Cattle Movement Service.

We called the heifer ‘Annie’ and she joined the calves and pigs at my parents place. It soon became apparent that Annie needed some company more her own age and so Wysdom was purchased. Wysdom was a jersey cow in milk from Mr Griffin of Bierton near Aylesbury.

Wysdom was milked by hand and the surplus fed to the various pigs and calves. Calves at this time to coin a phase, were as cheap as chips. It was the early 70s and you could go to market buy two calves then get home and find an extra one popped in for good measure. The market crowd were amazed when some young idiot paid £3 for a Hereford cross calf and flabbergasted when he paid £7 for a charolais cross heifer. These calves were reared and sold at a loss but any excess milk

was used up.

A senior member of the market crowd informed me that there were three sure fire ways of losing money. Horses were the quickest, women the most enjoyable and calf rearing the most certain. Taking this advice on board I had to rethink my operation.

In due course Annie came bulling and the local artificial inseminator came out from Great Horwood to inseminate her with jersey semen. Wysdom was reaching the end of her lactation. The family and calves needed milk and so another cow was needed. This time I brought a down calving heifer (a heifer expecting her first calf) again from Mr Griffin. It was 1976 and I was soon milking three cows by hand. It quickly became apparent that I needed to mechanise the operation.

Farm sales were common and I attended many trying to gather bits and pieces to put together my own milking system. At this time the only bit that eluded me was a vacuum pump. Never having been known to give up on a challenge I had to find a way around this.

Once more the trusty Land Rover came into its own. By pulling the brake servo vacuum pipe off the Land Rover manifold and putting the vacuum regulator onto the manifold we had vacuum. The milking plant was working. This continued for a few months until a proper vacuum pump could be found at yet another farm sale.