I have three cows, namely Snowberry, Willow and Buckthorn. Alan would contest the ownership status. However, he was foolish enough to ‘lend’ me these three bovines quite a number of years ago when they were each a mere 6 months old. At the time I needed serious lawnmower power to graze the land my horses were on – what better munching machines than three growing ‘fatteners’ (the colloquial and rather grim term used to describe cows that are eventually destined for the nation’s dinner plate) to eat down the emerald-green, lush Spring grass? Alan assumed, quite wrongly, that he would be receiving three fat ‘oven ready’ cows back, but by that time I had named them. The power of a name – my theory is once it is named, it is safe. I am a hardened vegetarian and spend my life rescuing life’s desperate cases. Alan didn’t know this at the time. He does now. Most of his ‘Suckler’ cows (our breeding stock) now have names. Snowberry, Willow and Buckthorn, with a bit of gentle persuasion, were promoted into the Suckler herd. Result.
My three bovine babies are full of character, and have three very different personalities. Snowberry is the eternal mother, gentle, sweet-natured and friendly; Buckthorn has a kind eye and is friends with those that spend time with her. She knows what she likes and likes what she knows. Willow is more aloof and will honour me with her presence if there is something in it for her, but she is happy and accepts me as part of the herd. All three come when they are called by name and have a ponchance for bread, barley, grass – in fact any food that is considered a sweetie in cow terms. They have grown, matured, had babies and are part of our 32 strong breeding cows that run with our pedigree Limousine bull (Hercules). The herd’s offspring make up about another 70 ‘beasts’ – as they are affectionately named.
Dan-the-foot-trimming-man and Snowberry
To maintain a healthy herd, there are certain things that need to happen – daily, monthly or yearly. One of these yearly events is a ‘big un’ – the visit of ‘Dan-the-foot-trimming-man’. Dan Kitching is a legend of a fellow. He appears around Easter every year with his space age equipment and calmly, sensitively and professionally coerces the cattle down the race into a crush. With the press of a few buttons and levers, the cows are clamped, lifted and rolled onto their sides whilst he works his magic on their feet.
Dan-the-foot-trimming-man and Snowberry
As you can imagine, it is not the favourite pastime of a cow to be so treated. The wily old girls hang back, plant their feet and refuse to budge. None more so than ‘T’oad Gran’ – our oldest girl and possibly the oldest cow in England. At a grand old age of 23, she has been there, done that many times. She lives out her days as the matriarch and shows the young cows how to avoid the crush. She has done her job well. This year, we had the bright idea of segregating a section of the herd into a temporary pen to free up a bit of space in the waiting area. Alan happened to be really quite poorly so wasn’t on top form. He persuaded a section of the herd into the pen, and then got about the task of shifting cows towards ‘Dan-the-foot-trimming-man’ and his crush. All was going well with not too much blue language occurring, when an almighty crash resounded around the fold yard. ‘What the…?’ Before the sentence could be completed, a vision appeared of about 10 cattle stampeding with gates flying, hooves in the air, bellowing, 10 tonnes of moving beef careered in all directions. SH*T! The temporary pen was no more. The red and white cow had happened to be in the temporary pen. The same cow that is claustrophobic, the same cow that is never penned for any reason, the same cow that had a 5 bar gate now wrapped round her neck. The fold yard, incidentally, is next to the fishing lake, where it happened to be a perfect fishing day, and a number of older gentlemen had decided to quietly pass the time away. All came to investigate but were met with a wall of rampaging cows. Insurance claims, air ambulances, fire-brigades all flashed in front of my eyes. I ran. God, how I ran. I didn’t know I still could. I appeared to be fleeing the scene. This is slander and in fact I was heading for the gate to close off the yard. I made it in time for the moving wall to screech to a stop in front of me. Hercules, blowing like a demon, was heading the charge. Flanking him, the ‘cow with no name that can’t be penned’ – however her future is now secured: ‘That red and white b*st*rd’ is the name that Alan has chosen for her.
Two bulls together – Alan and Hercules
After the cattle were returned, peace was restored, and ‘Dan-the-foot-trimming-man’ continued. All went well for the rest of the day, and all the cattle had their pedicures.
Snowberry was due to calve imminently. ‘Dan-the-foot-trimming-man’ took this into account and was even more careful and gentle. For the rest of the week, I kept a close eye on her, and then three days later this happened:
God bless you Snowberry.