Farm Life, Highland cattle, Living with Nature, Uvie Farm

Violence and wild neighbours

The cattle are lurking at the top of the road. They’re using the trees to shelter from the wind but also trying to convince me that the weather is harsh enough to warrant supplementary feeding. It isn’t: in fact it is unseasonably warm. I harden myself to collective emotional blackmail even as Abby and Holly position themselves across my path to force me to acknowledge them. The babies,namely little Holly and Alice, get fed at the shed, but that is to socialise them as well as to bring them on. The rest just have to man – er -cow up: it’ll get tougher later in the winter.
The fine weather means there are no welfare fears, the feeders are full and the beasts content apart from Ma Alice who, separated from her baby, looks forlornly through the net like a POW dreaming of home. A tickle down both sides of Angie Halfhorn’s ample neck and I’m out the bottom end of the Aspen paddock to follow the old township road past the kitchen garden and back up to the house for breakfast.
Closing the final gate I spot a scatter of feathers: white with pale brown edging- the colours of my sober Maran hens. These have not been lost through preening: there are breast and flight feathers torn out. Not enough though to constitute a shambles, a bourroch in the old language. There is no explosion of feathers the way a peregrine pulverises a pigeon: no shredded carcase after the way of a harrier. Perhaps one of my chooks was dragged here by a big predator, fox or wildcat?- But no, the two Marans perambulate peacefully at the shed with their bible black consort whose splendour is only slightly lessened when he trips over his own feathered feet.
I am relieved not to have failed an animal in my care; but troubled that one of my wild neighbours should have suffered some nameless violence this night past.

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