1570 came roaring out of the dozen cows and calves, head lowered, eyes bulging. I had nothing. No dog, no stick and nowhere to run.
I’d been standing on the side of the road to shepherd the group across from the calving paddock to the dairy when she broke from the rear of the ambling mob.
She was as angry as an ambushed tiger mother and, as she lunged towards me, I knew I was in real trouble.
I’ve been there before. A couple of years ago, a cow we were attempting to treat for blood poisoning left me with a dislocated jaw and badly bruised ribs. That was a first-calving heifer but 1570 was a 650 kg fully-grown cow. A 6-year-old in her prime.
I meant to shout an intimidating bellow but, instead, out came the gurgling, shrieking, involuntary scream of a cave woman facing a sabre-tooth tiger.
And, then, with a whoosh, the quad bike appeared between us. Not exactly a white knight but close enough, thank you Wayne!
1570 and I met up again at the yards a few minutes later. Me safely on the other side of the fence. I wasn’t doing anything to threaten her – just standing quietly. Again, no dog, no stick, no history.
The reality is that some cows just go a bit bonkers when they calve. I wasn’t the only one – she was banging her head against other cows, too.
If she doesn’t settle within a day or two, we will sell her. Making the cows’ welfare top priority is ingrained in a dairy farmer’s psyche but this type of aggression can be both genetic and lethal. We simply can’t take the risk.
So, if you happen to be anywhere around cows and calves, don’t assume they’re simply gentle herbivores. Be careful.
Don’t have a dog with you. Be quiet and calm. Make sure there’s someone with you. Take a stick that can be used to make yourself look wider – or as a last resort – defend yourself.
EDIT: Having used hers to call for help after being trampled, fellow dairy farmer, Donna Edge, reminded me on Twitter that it’s also a good idea to bring your mobile phone and as Lauren Peterson suggests, download the http://emergencyapp.triplezero.gov.au app so the emergency services can find you.