What a day!!.
Market day though..so always big stress.
Will they load okay?
Will I make it up the road safely?
Will they sell, or will I have to bring them back?
Will they be treated well?
Baby Alice, now grown
So up after a sleepless night..
and instead of feeding the cattle in the pasture
I open the gate and rattle the feedbag
and they all stream through and gallop up the road…
..er..not quite all.
The babies are left watching their mums rumps
sashay up the hill.
..a mother now!
When encouraged to use the opening,
the calves gallop off round the field
like ponies in a circus..
and I take the quad after them..
like a crack-fuelled cowpoke!!
Finally reunited..mothers and daughters follow up to the yard
where they find the feast prepared
but with a canny distinction..
Herding cattle is about
I had placed a trough in the outer yard
and another in the inner where I load from.
I am selling the two Alices
with their heifer calves:
they are both young
so they are quite a saleable package…
or ‘unit’ as the auctioneer describes them in the ring..
but more of that later..
..and the last to come in…was little Alice (with..er..even littler Alice)
The Alices are low down the herd order
not permitted first dibs at the trough by the big girls:
so they would look around for an alternative source of food.
and find the second trough placed where I needed them to be…
and it worked!!
They are now in the holding pen
with the ramp lowered to the trailer
and I just have to encourage them into a
deadended aluminum box!
.. the babies dodge the adult’s hooves
in this confined space
mothers try to deal with a persistent irritant
like a horsefly- that is..me!
So patiently, patiently..tapping the side of their head
to turn them
or their rear
to send them forward,
(Catalonian film-maker temporarily turned Highland stockman)
yanks on the ringed rope holding the loading gate open,
allowing me to jam it against Alice’s rear to force her up the ramp
and lift and lock the tailgate.
..and off up the road to market
(trying to ignore the fact that my indicator lights don’t seem to be working
This market is not a Show and Sell..
where you see the loving care of the breeders
on display in the flouncing majesty of prime animals.
a cattle market!
with animals dislocated
from herd and pasture
to be penned on concrete
uneasy and frightened.
Many of these will head to good new homes,
some to the abattoir..
they just don’t know.
(but I feel as if they do sometimes).
The old bulls
alongside weaned calves, bullocks,
cast cows and breeders.
All with their characters,
..and its time..
My girls are going through the ring!
I wait for the auctioneer to lean down
covering the microphone
‘What’s the very lowest price you would let them go for’..
allowing him pick bids off the wall
to arrive at a token value ..
and shift them on
..but he doesn’t..
describing both pairs as ‘nice units’..
and the bidding moves up in 50s
til I’ve passed my last resort,
passed my default
to arrive at, if not my zenith,
at least, a nice upland pasture
..and that’s where they go, my girls,
to the same buyer..