Sunday, 4 September 2011

Cows, cows, cows, cows, cows, cows, cows, cows...

You get the idea? We have COWS! The glorious, wondrous, huge, beautiful, desirable, brilliant, scarily large, extraordinary tasting Devon Red Rubies. A small pedigree suckler herd, which we hope to add to before the winter kicks in.
There's matriarch Willow with her new bull calf; Bollie, a year younger also with her calf; and Peaceful, a heifer with some growing to do before she has a calf of her own.
For now, Bollie and Willow leave Peaceful in charge of their calves when they want to drink, graze, hang out. And then the old gals nudge her OFF the calves and tell her where to go. It's pretty much in line with bullying the au pair and still knowing she'll not pack her bags and leave you in the lurch.
We bought them at auction at a very local farm, from an acquaintance who needed to get rid of her herd, so they came here with their auction stickers slapped high on their rumps. Bollie still has hers and looks like she's wearing a new summer outfit with the labels still attached.
The auction was not that nailbiting; after having been to several sales recently and either not bid because of the quality of the stock or bid and been trampled over by gobsmackingly high prices, this was a pretty calm affair. We liked what we saw, a more knowledgeable pal gave a helpful opinion, we set a price and that was it. Out of more than a hundred people present I think only half a dozen were bidding, and none were prepared to get carried away. Lucky auction number 99 took me through to winning the 3 lots we wanted. And then the nailbiting started.
Everybody has said to me that after sheep, cows would be a walk in the park, but blimey, I can turn over a sheep and take physical control. Those cows must weigh nearly a tonne. And they are naturally protective of their young. And we've never done this before. And and and.
But we have great big pigs, and that's fine. And we'll take it slowly, and today Peaceful came up to me to be patted, and Willow looked thoughtful about the prospect. Bollie, with her first calf, is entirely suspicious, looking strict and superior, keeping her distance. Winning her over will take time.
This afternoon I watched her calf lick at an itch, but Bollie couldn't resist and rasped her tongue all over her calf, showing him how it was done. I also watched the cows engage in synchronised grazing, shitting, calf suckling, pissing and drinking. It was a well directed opera of activity with all basics covered.
This is the start of a big adventure. It reminds me how the people on our smallholding courses feel when they take their first tentative livestock steps. It reminds me how much we've learned over decades of keeping sheep, pigs, poultry and more. It reminds me how little I know about cattle, no matter what I've read, no matter what I've heard. Ultimately you have to do something to know something. And now, I'm doing it.