I lost my brand new bull. How on earth did I manage that?
Yesterday I had a mass of work I needed to do so Robert said he would check the animals first thing. I’d finished the morning chores and was about to settle down to work when Robert shouted through the kitchen door.
“The bull’s missing!”
“What?” I called down
“The bull’s missing.”
“He can’t be…no, you’re joking?”
“He is. The new one, the little one. I can’t find him.”
This is not something I wanted to hear. My heart popped into my mouth and my stomach fell into my feet. My head filled with visions – a young, scared bull on the rampage. Oh my god, the damage. To him, to others. No, don’t think. Focus…
He, and the two heifers he’s been running with, had been put into Rushy Field; the main herd were grazing the Rutleighs – just up our lane from them. All the cattle appeared content and settled in their groups. But, so it seemed, sometime during the small hours, the heifers, or the bull, had pushed and broken down a small section of fencing. They had escaped through this.
Cattle tend to stick together, whether they’ve broken out on purpose or inadvertently, they don’t split up, and they will always try to make for their own herd; if for some reason they become separated they will scent their way to the nearest group of cattle. The heifers had made their way up to the main herd and were bawling on the other side of the gate safe and well…but the bull was nowhere to be seen.
Robert had made a cursory check of the immediate fields but couldn’t find him. The morning light at this time of year is low which makes it difficult to see animals under the hedges or in the shadows. But why wasn’t the bull with the heifers? They were his security and would have taken the lead (they know our land): the main herd full of females would have been the logical magnet.
We split up and searched – under hedges, in ditches, along field margins, hoping to find some sign, a broken fence, smashed gate, cow pats, as to where he was. Nothing. Having combed the most of the fields adjacent we took to the roads. I went left, I went right, I scoured every cow filled field, I asked every farmer and I drew a complete blank. He appeared to have disappeared.
My imagination was getting the better of me now. I envisaged fields of raped pedigree heifers. Perhaps he was on a rampage of destruction and devastation? Gored and injured people scattered willy nilly? Or maybe he’d been stolen. Law suits and bankruptcy danced before me.
We reconvened at the house. We’d been looking for him for over three hours and were none the wiser.
“He’s got to be on the farm.” said Olly “Someone would have phoned by now. I mean, a bull on the loose?”
“You’re right, there’re no messages on the answer phone. No note. No one’s been down the lane.”
“But the strange thing is, he’s not shouting. If he’s out there in a field by himself, you’d think he’d be bellowing by now?”
So we decided to have one more concerted search on the farm. I’d track their marks up the lane and see if I could work out how they’d become separated. I followed every mark, up the lane, down the lane, looking at dung and working out prints (thank heaven for mud!), examining every bent twig, not a clue. Giving up, hot and desperate and praying for a sign, I made my way back when something made me look up and there, in the middle of Cow Moor, a ring fenced, hedged and ditched block of land was the bull! He was okay, a little nervy, but nothing untoward.
What an immense relief.