By Rosewood Farm, Feb 12 2017 04:54PM
Storytime from the farm this Sunday as Natalie relates the ongoing Saga of Seavy Carr:
When we released 80 cows onto 80 acres of overgrown nothing, I remember thinking it was maybe a good idea to ask the local hunt if they could help us round them back up again! Dexters are extremely lively cattle and love to give us a nice bit of exercise whenever they can. Such a large area, full of bogs, definitely gives them the upper hand! Unfortunately, I did nothing about that idea and my worst fears came true - three humans were all we had to bring them back in. Rob and Paul were good cross country runners at school. I was always last. Those two would make good hunt horses, if they were horses, but I'd be a plough horse...
Things could not be put off any longer though, for a couple of reasons. The first was our TB test. Even though we are in one of the lowest risk areas, we still have to be tested every four years, no argument. The second was that there had been a mix up and a cow had ended up having a calf out there. Luckily, being a tough-ass Dexter, mother and baby were absolutely fine but we were naturally worried about her having been on such a poor diet - only our non childbearing animals were supposed to be out there!
Unfortunately, we got very delayed getting everything organised and it was all shunted to the day before the TB test meaning we could afford absolutely no failures in the rounding up process. To make things that bit harder, the morning brought thick fog meaning we couldn't actually see any cows. All this meant the round up didn't begin until near 4pm, at which time I had to leave to take our daughter to her dance lesson (she loves her dancing so skipping it isn't an option!).
This was *really* tricky, because the piece of ground is crisscrossed with ditches which are all brimming at this time of year. Cows can simply barrel through them, but humans can't unless they want to soak their wellies. Our plan had hinged on sending Rob to the far end, using Paul as 'bait' calling to the cows. The lads and their cows have co-evolved together for over 20 years and just a call from one of them is enough to bring them running for the promise of fresh grass - they don't listen to me! When we move the sheep the roles are reversed, they will happily run to me and the lads bring up the rear instead. So I was supposed to take over the pushing from behind when the cows had forded the main dyke, leaving Rob on dry land at the far end. In the event, 'good luck out there' was all I could say and I had to leave them to it!
I did however pick up a bucket of feed when I collected our daughter and hopped out to drop it off at the site on our way to her lesson. Rosewood bred cows don't know what feed is, they spend their lives birth to death only eating forage; we do have some bought in cows though, and they certainly remember what it is to be fed! I thought the feed may help.
I got an enormous stroke of luck when I dropped the bucket off. Rob and Paul were nowhere to be seen, pushing the stragglers out of the far corner, but the frontrunners of the herd had already reached the corral. There wasn't much I could do to help, but I thought of a plan that may help after I'd left - I rattled the bucket and the nearest cow, a big red galleon of a bought in cow, immediately and joyfully ran to the bucket and stuck her head in. I gave her a mouthful, then carried the bucket into the corral, climbed out and placed the bucket on the other side of the fence to the greedy cow. Now she knew the feed was there, she was bound to go in confidently when the rest of the herd had been collected, and would lead them in!
I didn't get to see the moment of glory, but a text from Rob later confirmed that the plan had worked brillantly and my hastily arranged sleepover for our daughter at Grandma's while we spent the night chasing cows through dykes in the dark wasn't necessary after all. Paul had remarked though that that was probably the limit of our luck for the forseeable. He was right, because the rain had started and once the first load of cows was in the box, our little old tractor simply slithered in place and couldn't drag the load out.
There was a little bit of luck left, though. While Rob and Paul scratched their heads in the dark and rain, a pair of headlights appeared on the little road going past. It was a pickup, and it slowed at the sight of the bogged tractor. It was a neighbouring arable farmer we work in conjunction with, helping him fulfill his environmental obligations. He was shaking his head at the insanity of what we were up to, but did remark on how well our cows looked on such notoriously poor ground and offered to send a lad round with one of his much bigger tractors to tow us out. If he hadn't, we'd probably still be out there now!
At 5.30am I was awake, being asked for a drink by a four year old. At first I assumed Rob was beside me but on second glance the bed was empty. I winced - this meant there must have been a problem. At about 7 he turned up and told me about the numerous punctures they had suffered during the many trips to ferry 80 cows back to the farm. Rob was falling asleep talking to me so I shunted him off to bed and went out to help Paul create a handling system ready for the vet at 9. Paul was clumsy and slow through lack of sleep but refused coffee and between us we managed to set things up and keep the vet happy.
...Then we did it all again a few days later, but I'm happy to report we have passed another TB test and the first grazing of Seavy Carr is done!