Every milk maid has to be part kelpie. We spend so much of our time herding cows from place to place every day, it’s almost instinctive. Without thinking, I move just far enough into the cow’s field of vision to urge her left or right without worry or fuss (most of the time!).
But, when it comes to moving young calves, it all goes out the window.
A new group was ready to graduate from the hay-shed paddock out into the rising one-year-old area. It’s about a 500 metre walk past half-a-dozen paddocks. My first challenge: to get them out of the paddock.
Walking around behind the poddies, I try the conventional arm waving to get them moving towards the wide-open gates. Nope. Find myself surrounded with curious muzzles at every quarter.
Next attempt is to whistle a merry tune and hope they’ll follow the Pied Piper. A handful do. The rest, meh. Apparently not that curious.
I have a brainwave. The calfeteria is undergoing repairs at the moment but what about the trailer? Hook it up, partially fill with calf bait (aka pellets) and arrive full of fresh hope. A handful follow. The rest, meh. Apparently not that hungry.
The phone rings. I slump on the Bobcat seat and leave the little blighters to their own devices. One tip-toes out the gates with all the quivering daintiness of Bambi. Oblivious to the talk about whitepapers and indices, out struts another with the confidence of a young and innocent Simba.
While I struggle to comprehend the basics of futures and options, out come Mowgli, Nutsy and Cottontail. Before I know it, the whole cast is wandering off up the laneway.
True, Alex and I later have to rescue some who strayed a little too far. But maybe this was the way it should have been all along. Stakeholder engagement on the farm is often something that has to happen strictly on someone else’s terms.