The bantams have been clinging grimly to tree tops

THE cows look extremely comfortable, warm and dry in their winter quarters. Outside it may be icy, windy, raining, sleeting, snowing, hurricanes even; but who cares? Certainly not the cows. They have a ring feeder full of barley straw and a clamp brimming with delicious, juicy silage. What could be better.

The four calves born to the heifers are equally content and fussed over not only by their Mums, but also all the other cows in the herd.

John and I went in with a friend who was staying to show her the herd. Marian originally trained as a veterinary nurse and enjoys seeing all the stock.

She was enchanted by the four tiny calves born to our heifers. They lay snug and fast asleep in the straw.

Alerted by visitors, and also by a naughty little Jack Russell that had slipped in behind us and soon had the cows in a tizz , the calves roused themselves and staggered upright.

Quickly the herd pressed round the calves so that soon all that could be seen of them were four inquisitive little heads peering out from beneath a forest of black legs and very fat tums. All the cows are in calf.

“Look at that” my friend said who had recently been to South Africa to visit her son. “When we were in the Kruger National Park we came upon a herd of water buffalo and they acted in exactly the same protective way.”

Our cows looked a bit snooty being compared to water buffalo but I had to concede that their behaviour was very protective.

I certainly was not going any nearer. A protective cow can be as dangerous as any bull.

The rest of our stock is not nearly so sheltered. The sheep have been moved again to fresh pastures. They know the routine well and having eaten up in their present field are only too eager to trot along the lane, following a tempting feed bag being rattled in front of them, to fresh grass.

It’s the oldest guinea fowl and some of this years bantams that I feel sorriest for. They have roosted all summer in the orchard.

Luxuriant leaf growth has protected them from balmy summer showers and the first of the autumns gusts.

But now the trees are stripped of their leaves and at night the fowl all cling to the bare branches with only their feathers to keep them warm.

I’ve tried to catch the bantams and shut them in the hen hut so that they get used to a dry hut at night, but they are having none of it.

If I forget to catch them up, the bantams are back in those trees and out of my reach before I realise.

They might not be able to fly, but they hop on to the lowest branches and then work their way to the top of the trees.

I went out when the wind was really fierce last night to see if they were OK. They were.

However wildly the branches swayed they clung on grimly. It is their choice.

Mrs Downs