|Posted on 30 August, 2016 at 15:25|
So here we are again……………. That dreaded day again, we’re on route to the abattoir with two of our beautiful home bred Dexters (breed of cattle) steers (boys), ‘sonny and pops’. We try not to name them, but when working with them and having so few it’s easier to know who is who and slightly more respectful than a number. You need to remember we are there the moment they are born, help them through any injuries and we take them at the end.
It seems like yesterday we decided we wanted a herd of our own, we had been to Blaksley show (a local country show) and saw some Dexters being shown, they are a lot smaller than normal cattle and seemed very well behaved in the ring and when talking to the breeder whilst they were brushing, trimming and hair spraying their own cows, we decided they looked very placid and a good idea!!!!!
So I was off, researching breeders, we found a lot on the society page, I whittled it down to two then decided to arrange a visit to a breeder to discuss buying options.
My list of wants came as followed:
• Pedigree Red
• Short leg
• 3 cows ( a cow is after motherhood and a heifer is before)
• In calf
• Halter trained
• 4 well-proportioned teats
• A square bum and a ridge along the back, not to fat, not too thin.
So our first meeting was with a pair of breeders who were also judges in the Dexter world, they were obviously very good at their jobs as I feel they were judging us the moment we rocked up. It was all very pleasant and I put on my best voice! We followed them to the field and we were looking at all the cattle who didn’t seem that interested in us. I asked if they were halter trained, and her answer was “No Dear, these are not my show cows” so I replied that we were looking for good breeding stock with hope to show them. She looked at me with a slightly tilted head and said “you know dear, my show cows are very expensive” . Now, I don’t like to waste peoples time, but I looked back knowing at this point we were never going to do business and replied “ I hadn’t realised we had discussed money, have we talked budget?” So in the car to the next field following their old jag. We had already decided they weren’t going to show us anything worth showing we had a quick look at the “show” cows and left, I’m not sure we ever did get around to discussing money!
So on to the next lot of breeders, this time I had a clean ironed Joules top on and Bobby gelled his hair, I thought if we looked the part we might get a bit further!!
We pulled up in to the farm yard and as the couple walked out the house, you could see the honest kindness on their faces (I like to think I’m quite good at reading people.) We went up to the field to look at the cows, there were a lot to see, each and every one had a name and we were told a little bit about their individual personalities. We could tell they were well loved and respected, we went back to the house discussed prices and went away with a lot to think about, do we go young and pretty or older proven? Well, we did the predictable thing and went young and pretty of course
The decision was made ……..Rose a short red which is a prize winning cow, in calf with her a steer at foot, and Gwen another short red, in calf and with a black heifer (Berry) at foot.
Although it was less cows than we wanted we decided to go with quality not quantity.
We went to pick them up after being pregnancy tested and tb tested and bought them home, you could tell how well loved Rose was, there were a lot of tears as we left.
We had been home 3 days…………….and Rose came running down the field for her breakfast, and cut a teat with her back foot!! There was blood everywhere, the panic had set in we had spent a fortune on a cow which now had a teat hanging off!! (teats are very important when it comes to showing). I rang the people we had bought them from, they had never seen this happen before!!! I rang in panic to the people down the road who had been breading Dexters for many years, they had never seen this before, I rang the vet, she came out and could not understand the panic in my voice we tried to get her to stitch it, to minimise scaring, but Rose wouldn’t let her! We sprayed it blue and hoped for the best………….imagine my feelings , 3 days after buying a prize winning cow, It had halved its own value, I was gutted, not the best start to our Dexer adventure. On the plus side, the chances of it happening again to us were none existent as it’s such a rare thing to happen!
So the following year we had sonny and pops (we really wanted girls but we got boys)
Then in 2016 we had Ivy a beautiful red short leg heifer, from Rose. Gwen produced a red long legged steer, Beefy! Berry was Struggling, we had never needed to help a cow calve before we were all a bit blind to the situation, she looked uncomfortable in the afternoon but seeing as every Dexter breeder we had spoken too, said, as a breed they never really need help! We left her too it a bit longer (with sheep sometimes they just need a bit of time especially first time). We were sat waiting, watching and could see 2 feet (they come out like superman) and came to the conclusion she needed help, we had some rope, iodine and that was it we started pulling with contractions (like sheep), it wasn’t moving, after about half an hour we could see a mouth and tong hanging out, it wasn’t looking good this calf was well and truly stuck Berry collapsed on to the floor, we were desperately trying to get this calf out, Berry had given up. I was not prepared to let her die. It felt like hours but probably only 20 mins, we got the calf out, dead, we bought him round to show Berry, it was a very large red long legged steer. She knew it was dead and just laid down. I cannot tell you how I felt at this point as it was too emotional to put in to words, she looked defeated and I felt it. We sat there with her head on my lap for a long time, grieving together for our lost battle. I felt/still feel terribly guilty if we had helped sooner this may not have been the outcome, we will never know.
In this time the rest of the herd had gathered at the gate to the barn. It was like they knew. Berry had laid down long enough, we had to get her up, it took both of us to get her on her feet. She looked so sad. The herd were calling, we were not sure on what to do for the best, we moved the calf to the corner of the barn and Berry followed and stood by just looking blank at what could have been, we let the rest of the herd in and stood back to watch, each and every member of our herd went to the calf and then to Berry, they all understood, they could all feel her pain. Rose the leader let out a moo, the rest copied. It was an incredible thing to watch.
We took the calf away later that evening. Berry was very depressed it was very worrying we didn’t know if she was going to make it but there was nothing we could do. After a while she left the barn and followed the herd for grazing, she was a fantastic aunty to the other claves born that year, she really cared for them, to me it highlighted the dynamics of a herd, they all have a place and a job to do, and you can see the relationship they have between them.
I feel honoured to be a herdsman (woman). I respect my herd, people are always very quick to judge or comment when you take a cow to the abattoir and perhaps don’t fully understand the relationship between a farmer and their herd.
I know my cows have been well fed on lush green grass, I know if they have a limp we fix it, if they need a vet we call it, and as a result we produce some amazing meat to sell, but, it does not stop the guilt when you ask a cow to get on a trailer and he calmly walks on trusting you. When you look in the mirror as your driving them away to see the mothers of the steers calling at the gate. The mothers know what it means, it happens every year when there 2 year olds are big enough to go. Its heart wrenching but the steers, they have no idea, if we’re calm, they are calm. We always use an abattoir which is within an hour of us and a calm environment. What more can we do?
I have so many other stories to share about my cows and showing them , but I think this is enough for today.