A shocking day

Yesterday was a shocker.

After getting Zoe off to school, it was time to do the annual “spring clean” of the fences. The event is triggered by the influx of youngsters into the herd. Every bit as adventurous and bullet-proof as your teenage son, these first-time calvers are new to the dairy side of the farm and love to explore far beyond the allocated paddock of the day.

The result: chaos. Sure, it only lasts a few weeks but, in that time, I could face divorce from a frustrated hubby sick and tired of chasing newbies around the farm. With all that in mind, I head off with the tester to gird the fences against the onslaught.

First stop is the all-important fence around the effluent pond. Nothing. “Not another #@$% battery.” Much muttering.

I’ve broken the farm’s electric fence system up into cells using a cadre of solar-powered energisers so that a single fault cannot bring the whole place to its knees and what I’ve discovered is that the batteries only last a season or two.

I wriggle the connections and ZAP! Well, at least I know it’s working. Test the blasted thing: 9 point bloody 6. No wonder I didn’t enjoy it. Pick up the clamp to attach it to the fence.

ZAP!

“AAAARGH”

“Need…new…clamp”

“What doing, Mama?” asks the little fellow in the Bobcat. “Never mind, Little Man”.

After a bit more spring cleaning, I discover a major fault down by the gully. Investigations reveal a blessed wombat has dug a perfectly good post right out of the ground, collapsing the fence and quite literally earthing it. A steel picket does the job nicely. And we’re up!

Job done, I roar the Bobcat through the gates, leap off and in a few paces find myself shrieking and dancing over a writhing red-bellied black snake.

Fellow dairy farmer, Nick Renyard (@farmer_nick_au) later described this snake as “pretty” but with ashen face, thumping heart and jellied limbs, that was not what sprang to mind a few moments later when the silence was again broken by Little Man.

“What doing, Mama?”

Back on the job and with a paddock selected, it’s time to bring the heavily pregnant youngsters across the road. We crossed that road a total of eight times (four return trips) over the course of an hour before conceding defeat. Young stock like to be driven by pedestrians rather than UTVs but I was tethered close to the machine by Little Man who understandably wanted to be part of the action.

We decided to take a breather (did I mention that low-stress stock handling techniques do not involve inter-spousal shouting sequences?) and let them settle for a couple of hours while we had a think.

In the end, it was Wayne’s brain-wave that saved the day: “Why not just let them run up the road?”.

A cunning plan indeed. Refusing to take the orthodox route along the track past the dairy, the rotters duly ran straight up the road and “escaped” through the road gate into the house paddock. Not there yet but across the road, yesssss!

There was much running, shouting and frantic arm-waving to get the mob of 50 trainees to run under the hot wire into their new home. All done wearing heavy rubber boots through deep mud. This morning, with aching hammies, I think of Cliff Young and marvel at not just the stamina but the ingenuity of the Legend.

Painful fall as Ball Face ousted as king of the bulls

The farm’s most aggressive bull has reigned for about two years as no other bull, even those who stood several inches taller, were as mean as Ball Face.

Wayne put him in the bull paddock last night. This morning Ball Face was missing. We discovered snapped wires along the laneway and figured the grader had clipped the fence, shorting out the power, so after the afternoon rounding up, it fell to me and the kids to restore the circuit and find the errant king while Wayne milked.

I fixed the laneway and found Ball Face and Fernando in the newly planted-out wetland. Aargh! Not my precious revegetation!!! The pair of them had left a trail of sagging wires and were busily roughing up some melaleucas. Can you spot them?

BullsInWetland

I sallied forth armed with a pigtail post and a long piece of poly pipe, leaving strict instructions for Zoe to stay on top of the Bobcat. I tried to look big and summoned my growliest voice. Magically, the two of them hopped out quite obediently. All that was left was to strain the three wires and turn the fence back on. Until this.

BallFaceChase

No one bull may have been game to take Ball Face on but a pack of them wanted him dead. Shrieking but quick, Zoe snapped this pic as the group charged towards us and I scrambled back onto the Bobcat. They thundered right around us and pursued Ball Face, literally pushing him through the fence (again) a hundred metres further up the paddock.

The fence strainer got a workout and then it was off, again, with pigtail post and poly pipe to remove Ball Face from his refuge. The gang stayed close to the fence and it was painfully obvious they would give him the medicine all over again, so I put him on the far side of the wetland, nine strands of hotwire away.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a king deposed by a gang. Normally, it happens when an upstart matures, challenging the patriarch to a one-on-one duel with the rest watching. But then, Ball Face is something extraordinary. Maybe it really is time for him to go.

Where city collides with country

Collapsed fence

"But I don't have any stock..."

I don’t know when this fence was built but it was there in the 1970s when I was a child and, as you can see, it does little more than serve as a marker these days.

The significance of the fence is that it marks our boundary with an abandoned house site held by an absentee owner. He doesn’t maintain his land and was shocked to receive a call from me asking him to share the cost of rebuilding the fence. “Whose stock trampled it? I don’t have any stock,” was his response. And that was before I gave him the estimate.

I had to very gently explain that fences slowly deteriorate over decades and eventually are beyond repair. The reality is that we have been maintaining his internal fences for some years and using those as a boundary fence but they too are now past it.

It’s the responsibility of both neighbours to build and maintain boundary fences – whether you have stock or not is completely irrelevant. After all, if he decided to sell, I reckon the fencing would suddenly become an asset (or not).

This incident touches on one of the reasons I decided to create the Milk Maid Marian blog. Unless farmers and other Australians “talk”, what hope is there of mutual respect?