Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Measuring separation in decibels.

I know I've written about weaning before - that process whereby young creatures are accustomed to something other than their mother's milk; and as I've said before, it sounds as if it should be a gentle and gradual process of mutual benefit to mother and offspring. Hmm, you can tell that to the Marines.

I returned home from a good day out yesterday - a meet-up in Shrewsbury with 2 fellow bloggers, a brush with the world outside the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan and ending with a slow drive home across the spine of the Long Mountain - the glorious landscape of Wales ranged to the west and that of the Shropshire hills to the east. All very self indulgent but good battery-charging stuff. I'm delighted I had such a good day because the following 24 hours have been less than restful.

In the yard over the garden wall was much activity. Cattle were being 'sorted'. It became apparent that cows were going in one direction and their calves in another. They were being weaned. Henceforth ne'er the twain should meet. The calves went off down the road in the wagon to their new home where grass grows long and lush in the pastures alongside the Camlad. Their mothers found themselves ushered back onto the hill and the realisation that their lumpen adolescent calves had gone became apparent. It's no consolation to them that before long the new calves they already carry in their bellies will be born and the cycle will start over again. They bawled and wailed and paced and searched, but of course their offspring are long gone. They wanted those calves; their loss was unfathomable and pained. One of the more enterprising beasts (a Belgian Blue with stubby horns and wild eyes) leaped a couple of hedges and a fence to further her search. She was returned to her field and we hoped they would all settle down.

Settle down they did. For a while. Around 4.00am the cacophony started again and this time our jumping cow was in the lane outside our window contemplating the garden - a flimsy wire fence away. I lie and think about it for a while. The thought of a massive munching cow working her way through the vegetables was almost too much to bear....Perhaps she'll wander back down the lane. Perhaps she won't. It is quickest and easiest just to get up and deal with the situation. Jeans on. Jacket on. Socks. Torch. Boots - if I'm going to face a distraught horned beast I need something I can run in....

Alan, bless him, gets up too - although I notice he stays behind a gate while I go and open another and usher her into the little triangular field. I'm only a little nervous as I walk up the narrow lane in the grey dawn towards her, muttering cow-friendly platitudes by way of a hand of friendship. To my surprise and great relief (I have no Plan B or exit strategy) she dutifully trots off into the field through my opened gate only a little skittishly and heads off to pace its perimeter. She is now confined and it will be bad luck if she leaps from here too.

We head back to bed and watch the dawn come up from beneath the duvet. Every so often our cow paces across our line of vision - which is reassuring in a sense as it means she is still there. The bawling continues from all corners. Each roar echoes against Badnage Wood's steep sides and bounces back into the morning's stillness. A few sheep bleat in sympathy and then the birds kick in....

The day has not been restful but it is quieter now. The cows will settle down and tranquility will be restored. Doesn't do to think too deeply about it. It's a job which has to be done - as I have been told.

In the meantime - ear plugs are a must-have accessory.

16 comments:

Lindsay said...

The cows in the field behind our house still have their calves with them. Some calves are still very tiny, some are very skittish which is lovely to see as they scamper around and about.

Irene said...

I suppose you have to be a bit tough to be a farmer, because I had not considered that part of it before. I mean, separating the calves from the cows. It sounds rather heartbreaking and I suppose I would not make a good farmer. Are these milking cows or do you raise them for the beef? I hope you answer milking cows.

Preseli Mags said...

It all seems a little cruel doesn't it. Poor cows. They'll get used to it soon, of course. Poor you for getting caught up in the crossfire, so to speak.

Frances said...

Mountaineer, I am hoping that tonight will be much more restful for you and your family, and those cows, too.

Once again, I have learned something about living in the country. It had never dawned on me that cows would be separated, en masse, from their calves. I has thought that it might have been a case by case move. What you've described is very dramatic, and you have written it so very well.

Best wishes. xo

Blossomcottage said...

We had the young lambs in the field when they were seperated from their mothers, it was about the time Tony Blair went to the country for the second time, not only did we have to put up with him on the telly, we had a week of young lambs yelling all night and they sounded as if they were saying "Blair Blair Blair"
Blossom

Sally's Chateau said...

Gosh I remember that when we lived next door to a dairy farm, now we live near the church bells but nothing keeps me awake any more.

Faith said...

Oh dear... I'd forgotten about this. My B.I.L. was a dairy farmer but as a child it didnt make me feel sad of course, wrapped up as I was in my own little self. Now I feel dreadfully sorry for cows and calves.

ChrisH said...

nezxpdcI would have a good bawl too if my babies had been taken away at that state!! Hope you get a better night tonight.

ChrisH said...

Sorry - I'm not writing in a new language! I just a brush with the dreaded word verification - and I lost!!

ChrisH said...

... or even HAD a brush! Gawd, I'm going to lie down now!

Cait O'Connor said...

I hate the sound of the ewes when their lambs have been taken from them.

elizabethm said...

I think you were very brave out there with your torch and boots. It just goes to show the lengths we will go to to protect our gardens.
glad all was well, if loud.

kissa said...

I think the calves you were talking about might well be in the field across the valley from us. They are young, skittish and moo enthusiastically at various times but are noticeably vocal during the unsocial hours. Then in a few months time they will disappear from this verdant valley but hopefully not into burgers but at least to cuts of meat that will grace tables where the diners will appreciate their quality. Will respond to your request to tag me on my next post.

Nikki-ann said...

The joys of living in the countryside! Still, I prefer that to drunken yobs in the streets, etc... I don't think I could live in a town/city for long!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I know ALL about this as the field directly in front of us is used for a similar purpose.and then we have to separate the ewes and lambs ...they are next to 2 holiday lets ...I bet they dont get much sleep either..oops

Pam said...

I suppose if you live in the country you get accustomed to it eventually. I was upset by this touching story but I'm a sucker for animals. It doesn't stop me eating meat but I'm honest enough to admit that I couldn't do the dirty deed myself. Thank goodness for farmers!