Thursday, 27 November 2008

Blog reader

I've just started using the blog reader It means you can follow lots of blogs in one place - it works with any site with an RSS feed (ie: blogs). Love it.

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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Trials & tribulations of a herd and its boss

Being seen as the boss of all the animals is an extremely important part of looking after a herd of cattle. If the herd gets an inkling that I'm not in charge they would run riot. The two animals I am most likely to come to loggerheads with are the bull Bernard & matriarch Kitty.

Although Bernard, as the lone bull, is used to getting his own way and knows just how big he is (having broken our crush once by bending 1 inch thick metal bars), Kitty has had to defend her title repeatedly. She has to be the most ferocious when it comes to a challenge as her technical fighting ability is of extreme importance in order to be queen of the fields. A cow further down the pecking order is more likely to pick a fight when Kitty is under the weather but she cannot lose face in front of any of the other members of the herd without jeopardising her position.

Losing face in other arenas is also a serious taboo. Bernard has pride of place at the feed troughs, with Kitty a close second. When it comes to moving the cattle between distant fields, none of them particularly like going in the trailer but both have to be unflappable. It is generally easier for us to move Bernard first then leave Kitty till last, as if she doesn't want to move not a lot is going to make her!

As you work down the pecking order there are more subtle changes. Younger cows move up the ranks by challenging their elders. Because we have both horned White Parks and non-horned Red Polls the complexeties get even more confusing. Of the Red Polls it is only really Ruby who presents a challange to any of the White Parks. As the matriarch of the Reds she has to be able to stand up to most of the horned cattle, even Kitty, putting her in the top three for the overall leadership.

When a new Heffer is born they are intigrated into the herd at the same level as their mother. When they are young, the calves compete between themselves to establish a place in the herd that is above their mother's position. Bull calves also fight for practice in later life. All of which means I must avoid being between them at the wrong time to ensure I don't lose control (or the seat of my trousers!).

Jim D-H
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