The cows are out! A huge and happy relief to all of us. A few days before, their unremitting bawling made me rush off to get some organic rolled barley from Roger. Roger was suffering from the same predicament. Cathartic commiseration was exchanged in the grain store.
Saturday was the day. We fed them early and had our breakfast while they packed away theirs. Organisation is the key. We knew they’d be over-excited and attempting to take them down the road in a highly volatile state would be too dangerous. They needed half a day in a home field to get rid of their pent up angst before being moved on to the grassy river meadows. First though we had to clip off an in-growing spur on one of Desiree’s horns – a cattle crush job – and pen off a couple of late calvers who will remain at the farm in Top Meadow, a stone’s throw from our kitchen window.
Gates in place, field decided upon, all inappropriate avenues of misdirection barricaded we were ready for the off….a red laval flow of jutting hip bones, moulting moth-eaten coats, snaking necks, cavernous maws and rubbery wet pink noses stampeded out of the cow palace; with saliva flying in whippy sticky streamers they bellowed and charged their way down the drive without a moment’s hesitation, calves ricocheting between flying legs and lethal hooves. It was over in seconds and in total surprise they found themselves in Cow Moor where grass is still a rarity. The bull, who seems to have doubled in size over the winter, and maiden heifers were the next to join the herd. This caused even more excitement, as heated sexual tension combined with testing hierarchical fights. Sweat and foam glistened, steam rose in huge huffing bursts.
A quick breather before hitching up the trailer and loading batches of young stock to take over to Pulworthy – the yearlings’ summer grazing lands. Surprisingly co-operative, we accomplished this in a couple of easy journeys, returning in good time to move the now chilled-out herd down the road.
They were exemplary. With heads down, grazing earnestly, we left them in the first river meadow and wandered off, relaxed and happy, to check gates and the wire across the drinking gully. Busily tightening the wire across the gap we were completely unaware that the herd had followed and were bearing down the gully in a heaving panting mass. Calves forsaken, their mothers single-mindedly exploded into the river with all the force of enormous red battle ships. Abandoned bewildered babies shouted at the retreating armada from the top of the river bank. Suddenly in unison and like wildebeest crossing the Mara they launched themselves into the deep river which completely submerged them, up they popped like corks and seemingly unphased they proceeded to swim after their fast disappearing mothers! I was paralysed with surprise and shock as was Robert, who clinging to submerged tree roots, had managed to get out of the way in the very nick of time!
“Did you see that? Did you see it?” he exclaimed “I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was just like the Serengetti! That’s extraordinary. And they weren’t concerned…they disappeared, went right under. Completely submerged, totally! Popped up and just swam as if they’d always done it. That is extraordinary. Quite, quite extraordinary.”
Having carefully checked over the herd we ushered them back into the first river meadow. Gradually peace was restored once more.
Where it reigns and reigns and reigns….