Graham R. Cooper
I had the three cows in the cattle yards by 8.30 am, half-an-hour before Dean, the veterinary technician, had scheduled a time to check the TB test results.
The last two tests, three years apart, had been done by Darlene. I’d never met a Darlene before: she had a likeable country and western timbre to her voice.
To this day I still get her words and the way she said them going through my head whenever things are not going well moving cattle. “It’s not ideal,” she had said in the tone of someone who had seen it all when it came to fiascos and near fiascos moving livestock.
It wasn’t ideal because although the paddock next to the holding pen was small, it sloped dramatically uphill away from the pen. Cattle instinctively move to higher ground and that’s what they did; they swirled around the paddock with the two of us in hot pursuit but we kept ending up back at the same place: the highest corner!
With much cajoling and frantic waving and yelling we managed on the fourth attempt to get them to charge into the holding pen. I hurriedly closed the gate before they could spin round and rush out again. “It’s not ideal.” Getting them into the small square yard that could fit a maximum of four cows was relatively straightforward after that.
Injector pen at the ready, Darlene swung her muscular legs, clad in safari shorts, over the rails of the yard and with a flourish and one hand firmly grasping the top of the rail, leaned out at a precarious angle. I had four cows in the small square pen and she had to hop her backside along the rails as she changed position to get at each cow’s tail end: “It’s not ideal”.
Ever since that merry chase I have used a channel formed by strands of temporary electric fencing wire and tread-in rods. The corridor formed feeds the cattle along a relatively flat area of ground at right angles to the pen.
I’m pretty sure Dean’s not the sort of guy who would be prepared to hang off the side rails and semi-levitate above the cattle until he could get in position to jab at a cow’s rump. I’ll never know, because I now, one cow at a time, feed them into the loading race that is not much wider than a cow: much closer to “ideal”.
Dean’s quite the contrast to Darlene, but I appreciate his approach as well.
Dean had arrived pretty much on the dot of nine to do the tests. When, three days later, he hadn’t turned up by quarter-to-ten to check the results, I rang his mobile phone. He answered immediately and said he was pulling in at my gate as we spoke.
By the time I got back down to the yards he had checked Violet. “Sorry I’m late. Can I let her out or do you need to do something else with them first?” I didn’t, but it was decent of him to ask before opening the side gate of the loading race to feed her back into the paddock.
I watched as, hands in disposable surgical gloves, he ran his fingers over the area near the tails of the other two where he had pricked them. As expected, all three were clear with no raised patch to indicate an inflammatory response. All Dean had to do then was to scan their electronic ear tags and their ‘all clear’ TB status was up-to-date once again.
“I got held up testing a dairy herd. They had forgotten to bring down the ‘carry overs’ from the paddock.”
“What are ‘carry-overs’?”
“Cows that didn’t calve this time and are being carried over to get in calf next year.”
I’m familiar with some kiwi farm-speak but there’s as much again that escapes my attention. I try to take on board the jargon whenever I can.
No more chatter, he was off to test at yet another industrial scale dairy farm where herd sizes are often a thousand or two or three. In my view of things, dairy farms on that scale are definitely “not ideal”.
“See you in three years’ time,” I said. He grinned and that was that.
That’s all from Little Owl Gully for now. Some ideas in a couple of books have really helped me get a handle on where I’m at these days. Next Monday will be a personal take on what they are saying: important to me but not necessarily so to anyone else. But who knows, eh?
Bye for now. Thanks for your company.