Hell, no, we won’t go!

The cows have been known to take industrial action before but yesterday, they took it to a whole new level. This is what started it all:

Cows make their presence felt

"Get a mooove on and let us have our crop, NOW!"

With the onset of summer, we’ve had to give each paddock a longer rest between grazings, which means less grass for the cows. We make up for it with extra grain, hay, silage and crop. This means our arrival signals food and they watch us like hawks. My big mistake was to shift the tape in the crop paddock in full view of the herd.

They were a fairly disgruntled bunch – it was their third day in the paddock and even though they’d just stuffed themselves with five rolls of silage and vetch hay, they wanted out.

We dutifully finished setting up their dessert settings and returned to the “main dining room” to escort them to the crop. Sounds ideal? Well, not quite. The gate out of their paddock was in the opposite direction of the crop, so they effectively had to walk 75 metres and do a U-turn.

At first, they simply refused to move, pretending they didn’t understand what we meant by our standard “C’mon girls” call. So we upped the tempo a little by Unleashing the Zoe and tooting the horn but they just milled around us.

In desperation, I asked Zoe to hop aboard the Bobcat for safety and started a concerted campaign of whizzing backwards and forwards accompanied by furious tooting. It was like trying to push back the tide. I moved one end of the herd, the other half swelled back towards the crop.

Knowing that Wayne was in the adjacent garden building Zoe’s cubby, I figured he’d come to assist soon. He didn’t. “WTF is he doing?”

It took 15 minutes of encouragement to get them the 75 metres to the gate and about three minutes for them all to make it to the crop from there. “Oh, that’s what the humans meant!”

So where was Wayne? In the house, sharing chocolate biscuits and coffee with the neighbours while we unwittingly entertained them in the paddock. Apparently it was very funny.

Little monsters in a crop

Cabbage moth

This picture of bridal purity is actually laying the seeds of destruction

This beautiful butterfly is no fairy. The larvae of the white cabbage moth and her wicked step-sister, the diamond backed moth,  can decimate brassica crops in days. The only way to control the diamond-backed wrigglers is to spray and spray and spray. Every five to seven days for the life of the crop! I’m no buddhist but this is a level of chemical use that scares me (and blows any hope of profitability at the same time).

For this reason, I’m falling out of love with rape. This obscenely-named brassica has long been the darling of dry-land dairy farmers. We’ve come to rely on it for high-quality lush green feed in the height of summer; when little else worthy of our cows’ refined (read “udderly spoilt”) palates will grow without irrigation.

I used to stagger plantings over a dozen hectares of brassicas to provide a constant feed source from January through to early March. Not any more. I’ve planted the oat paddock with Hunter rape and that’s it. Unlike the more hardy Winfred variety, Hunter is safe to graze at any age and when the larvae get a wriggle on, I’ll simply send in the cows and let the caterpillars have the rest. No spraying, no searching under leaves for stealthy marauders and no cow health worries.