I called in with a very good friend of mine a few days ago, only to find him driving his telescopic loader into the yard with a freshly-calved dairy heifer looking very much the worse for wear in the shovel.
It turned out that the poor animal had started calving the night before in a paddock across the road from the farm house. However, just as the new arrival hit the ground it was savaged by a group of foxes. The attack proved fatal for the calf as the mother, weak from her exertions, was not in a position to defend her newborn.
Fresh from their ensuing feast of veal, the foxes then decided that they would like a drink. And without further ado, they headed for the most obvious source. When the heifer arrived in the farm yard courtesy of the aforementioned loader, I was able to see the damage the foxes had wreaked on the animal’s udder. It didn’t take Albert Einstein to work out that she will never walk through a milking parlour.
Subsequent veterinary treatment ensured that the young heifer will live. But the foxes has also ensured that she will never get the chance to express her undoubted potential as a top class dairy cow. In reality, two years plus of hard work, care and attention on the part of her owner have amounted to nothing.
Later that day, my friend and I were walking through a field of young stock when we came across a maiden heifer, lying on her side and looking pretty much the worse for wear. With a fair bit of encouragement from us she eventually got up, exposing as she did a very swollen left rear leg and hindquarter. The animal had probably received a blow from another herd mate. She is now recuperating in a shed, but still feeling very sore of herself.
The general public has a very jaundiced view of farming at the present time. The perception is that farmers are a whinging class, living off the fat of the land at taxpayers’ expense. Truth be told, the reality is very different. Farming can be a hard life. The hours are long, the pay is well below the national minimum wage and it’s a case of having to get out in all weathers.
But above all else, livestock farmers put the needs of their animals first. And it was pretty heart breaking to see the injuries received by that young heifer following the actions of the foxes. It’s a loss that my friend will have to take on the chin. As he said himself: ‘What’s done is done, all we can do now is move on.’