Dehorning rodeo leaves us bloodied and bruised

THE swallows are back. Virtually establishing themselves overnight in old haunts of meal shed, dairy and the trailer.

John always parks the cattle trailer up in the same place so avoid having frustrated swallows wondering why their potential nest site has been moved. Not only have they travelled thousands of miles from the African continent to be with us, now they are looking forward to trips back and forth market.

In fact overnight with the change in the weather from arctic to temperate the whole shift of farming has moved up a gear. Lambs? Ewes? Calves? So last season. Apart from those ewes with triplets that need an extra bottle feed during the day and so are in the home paddocks, the sheep and their lambs are just woolly dots inland. Now the main drive is getting spring barley in and fertilising the grass destined for hay and silage crops.

Stock is not really forgotten. Because the grass is still not growing with any rapidity, John is taking extra feed out to the ewes, as they need to maintain vigour to enrich their milk. The lambs too are interested in nibbling the sheep nuts and pulling at the hay. They grow so rapidly. Pet lambs are extremely bold. Just leave the back door with a couple of bottles of lamb supplement muttering a convincing bleating sound (one of my many attributes be it for money, diamonds or gold) and the lambs come belting across the paddock to garrotte themselves in the wire fence whilst they suckle.

I do not receive such a gratifying response to my requests.

The main focus this week with the calves has been the dehorning rodeo. This is necessary not only for health and safety reasons in handling the calves as they grow into bulls and heifers, but also for those cows that will stay with us in the herd. A cow that is horned is always a dominant cow and nightmare in the herd. They know how to use those horns to get in first to the silage clamp. This is a good time of year to dehorn, usually done with the first few weeks of the calf’s life, as there are few flies about. We wait until there are several to do at a time. Dehorn a summer born calf and there is the danger that flies will infect the wound. Which is why we occasionally end up with a horned cow. It will have been a summer born calf.

Dehorning takes all morning. Firstly the identified calves must be separated from their Mums. Not easy in a crowded foldyard.

Next the blood supply and nerves to the horn area must be anesthetised. Of course the calves, never having been handled since birth, are incredibly submissive and docile whilst this happens. As they are when held down and a dehorning iron applied to the desensitised bud area. I jest.

Bloodied and bruised are the best descriptions of us after the task. Aching and haggard. The calves are just fine.

Mrs Downs Diary