Yesterday was not a ‘remembering remarkable holiday’ day. It was a full-on farming work day.
Every year, about half way through the winter housing period, I muck out the cow palace. I do this for several reasons – the dung is beginning to build up, to make sure that parasites or fungal growths such as roundworm, lice and mites that thrive in moist warm dung are removed; and, most importantly, to help get rid of any bacterial build up before calving. This seems to be more important during recent winters as we no longer have any sustained cold spells to inhibit the growth of pathogens.
And every year I look at the job in front of me and think ‘it’s never going to be done in a day’ ‘how have I ever managed before?’. This year Olly was my helper and, taking on board what was expected, he just looked at me and said “You gotta be joking! It’s impossible! We won’t do all that!” With false cheer I replied “Yup, I, we, will. It’s done every year. I know it looks daunting. But we’ll get in done. And in plenty of time too”.
Planning is the thing. And not feeling under too much pressure. You have to work quickly and yet safely with the machinery. Too much anxiety results in carelessness, which could land you in a load of trouble, not to say danger.
This year we decided to move the herd up to Silage barn – a barn half way up our lane, one of the old lean-tos I used before we built the cow palace. Here the cattle have some shelter, water and a place to lie down, plenty of room for the day. They are more content and settled that if we left them in the yard outside the cow palace, so we can get on with the job without the added pressure of bawling cows.
I let them out of the cow palace. They looked at me a little askance to begin with and then all hell was let loose as it dawned on them that spring had come early and they were off to find masses of grass and green, dry pastures! Well that’s what they thought. They rocketed down the lane, enormous pregnant bellies swaying, skidding and scaddadling in huge red cumbersome cavortings, bucking and kickings. They were brought up a bit short when I told them no, not spring, indeed the worst was probably yet to come. But like ladies on a church outing to the seaside they thought the day was turning into a bit of a lark!
Cows settled, it was on with the work. Heavy metal gates out, all eighteen of them. In with the bobcat, out with massive buckets of muck. An imposing Hadrian’s Wall of a dung heap built. Floors and walls, gates and feed barriers, pressure-washed. Gates re-hung, pens re-assembled. A seventy-five metre long lying area covered with fresh straw. Yards outside scraped and swept. And, finally, bringing the cattle back home, apparently refreshed by their holiday.
We were exhausted, tired, achy and stiff, but oh-so satisfied. Hanging over the barrier, admiring the cattle making themselves at home on the fresh, clean bedding, Olly turned to me ‘You’re right, it is possible! Doesn’t it feel good? A very, very satisfying day’s work!’ I nodded, and we made our way to the house for a well earned cup of tea and long, hot baths.
A’int love grand!