Alice needs tagging.
this means a label punched ineach ear, The numbers relate to the individual animal and my herd. She will carry these through life.
I don’t know how to do it.
She was born in the aspen paddock at the bottom of the farm. Unlike the others born in the calving paddock by the shed where I have handling facilities, here she is running free among the other animals,
In this case free means just that: vigorous and fast: followed by mum.
She will need separating, and containing somehow so that I can catch her and hold her long enough to attach the tags.
Today at feeding, I leave the gate open, walk between her and mum, walk slowly towards the gate so that she sees the opening and uses it, Her sister, pearlwhite Margarita runs through with her.
First step, separated from mum. I can leave them for the while.
After breakfast i dismantle three metal hrdles from the yard, load hem on the trailer, tie them down so that I don’t get beheaded if the heavy metal slides forward down the slope.
In the corner by the gate I set up a new pen parallel to the fence< drive the babies down as the two mums keep pace the othe side, Alice enters the pen, I can swing the gate to. She charges the gate with the mesh, bumps her nose, a bubble of blood appears where she has split her lip, I must move fast so that she doesn’t injure herself further, I chase her round the containing pen until she sticks her head through the bars in an attempt to escape. Grab the tongs with the tags loaded, hold her into the hurdle, my body behind her, catch her head and feel the ear for the skin between the blood vessels.
Little Alice is bleating, crying to be rescued. I check whether I am close enough to be caught by her mother if she decides to charge the mesh with her horns,
At this point the Nog, waiting in the field outside decides that I am clearly intending to murder the child and lends a hand by surging forwards at the calf’s head projecting between the bars. I swear at him and bite down with the first tongs to set the tags in place – withdraw them smoothly and pick up the second. Feel the left ear, check the tongs are the right way round and press together, wihdraw, Done.
Release the baby – open the gate, return her to mum. She is straight on the teat, when she surfaces, her bloody nose is clean, but her ears carry the oversized labels.
She is official.
Take down the hurdles, reinstate them at the shed.
The architecture of the moment, the machinery of intervention,
is gone as if it had never been.
A calf is sucking.