New winter and the duty of care

Angus digs in

The first bale of silage is out
the plastic wrap slit
the bale netting tied back to the forks of the JCB,
the 4ft plug of fermented grass
drops with a thud,
settles like a core
of summer’s strata,
hauled from darkness.

The cattle, always primed for novelty
and the hope of first dibs,
dip into the feeder immediately
in order of seniority,
butting and bustling at interlopers
Moira gets in first
I see this anew at the dry water trough-
suckling mothers need gallons
and the supply has failed.
Once I have restored the stream,
I notice that philosopher Flora
is first to refreshment,
young Holly next-
I thought the order had changed
but the old animal stands her ground
confident of her place.
Holly gets her turn

So: feed and water,
the winter round of care has begun.
The cattle have returned to me
after the summer’s insouciance,
waiting heads up each morning,
questioning and attentive.
I have to approach once more,
check their welfare,
encourage them with chatter
pet them when allowed:
learn to understand the herd’s
silent diagnosis of itself.

George watches the Nog


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