Highland cattle, Uncategorized

Contentment found among cattle

Today is ordinary- a day like other days. Cold again, but not so cold that I have to break ice on the troughs- and dry, so the beasts are content. Bill is rubbing himself on a feed trough as though drawing it to my attention. I lean on his flank some moments scratching the short hair behind his front leg. I know he enjoys his spine and rump being worked over but also this leaning my head over his back, the way the animals do it. Little Holly brings her nose close and I blow gently – she will need separating from the males soon: penned with little Alice  she will help me manage the newcomer’s distress when weaned from her mother.

Sounds are muffled and engine  noise drifts down benignly from the road as I head downfield noting in passing the levels in the watertroughs. Mother Holly stands by the feeder but head lifted to watch me arrive. She has managed to throw a thatch of silage onto her back that I push aside to massage her wide rump – she bends her head to lick the back of my leg in her usual gesture of reciprocity. Abbie is nervous – I suspect that she was the animal hoisted into the water trough by one of her fellows – as I reach towards her she catches sight of the Nog bouncing frustratedly on the other side of the wire and shies away. Angus Halfhorn is behind her standing quietly, conserving warmth after a frosty night in the open, bends his head towards my feet as I approach. I must stretch over his horns to scratch the centre parting on the top of his neck. I oblige – reflecting how close these gestures are to the attack postures that would enable these animals to use their strength to do harm.

It is peaceful today: the two young stotts stand watch chewing the cud. Up the hill my house stands and breathes.

Highland cattle

The first day of winter

Ice smears the ground this morning. The air is still. The animals have their heads down on the Apron but I shall feed them today. This marks the start of winter, establishing the pattern that will prevail until the new grass.

The digger is mute and cold – its old engine will not start under its own power so I hook up the charger and squirt juice into the air filter. It turns grudgingly and apparently on its dying revolution fires into life. I let it run for a while, use the time to drain the field roller of water to avoid bursting the welds under the pressure of expanding ice. Picking up the first bale end-on, I drop it to come in sideways, entering offcentre to allow for the skewed pallet fork I bent swinging too fast past a tree, and head down to the hardstanding. The plastic covering the ends of the round bale is cut & I slash hard along the front just above the forks, and pull both wrap and net back against the bucket, tying it to the fork bars. Lifting and tilting I drop the bale and the grass is freed from its covering which now hangs like an untidy flag from my loose knot. The smell of part fermented grass is on my hands now – not a haybale’s wistful reminder of summer but something with sourer notes, reassuring nonetheless.

Returning with a tombstone feeder balanced on the forks, I find that Billy has rammed the bale as though a rival, shifting it several feet unrolling as it goes. A good part of the feed is now at risk from being trampled and lost. Yelling at the delinquent veteran  I hoop the feeder over the bale, reversing to pull it into position like landing a fish. I jump down to pull out as much of I can of the fringe of silage projecting from the ring, while avoiding Billy swinging his horns at marauders.

Taking the second bale to Angus halfhorn and the girls goes smoothly enough, but feed is not enough: I have to ensure their water supply. A few days ago, one of the animals had fallen in the water trough, breaching it. I installed a replacement but finished in darkness and only discovered later that the ballvalve was not closing the incoming supply. The well had emptied but more importantly the pump was hunting for water in the dry borehole and might burn out, leaving the farm waterless. Stripped to my shirtsleeves I feel in the cold water for the machine screw retaining the float, and reset it

Farm duties done, I can now set about some paid employment.