A taste of a bad week

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Going to move away from wine this month and share the taste of a bad week on the farm. I don’t cry very often, but last week I experienced an inkling of what so many farmers are having to deal with, and for a moment it was overwhelming.

We can’t complain here on the coast. Yes, it is dry, but there is subsoil moisture and the dams are doing OK. Many property owners around here are helping where they can and taking on stock (agisting) from the seriously drought stricken. We have taken on two herds for agistment plus our own.  

One of the herds comes from Oberon, and they were poor when they arrived. They are all pregnant, and calving has begun. The owner is appreciative of any feed they can get; there is nothing at Oberon. Our herd are healthy and are calving too.  

The week started with the daily count of calves and making sure the mums were doing their jobs and keeping their calves safe. Our herd were a bit twitchy, which often indicates the presence of wild dogs. Calves can be hard to find when they bunker down, so you carefully cruise the paddock to make sure all are present and accounted for. In the distance I saw a black shape near the fence. What I found was shocking. A cow had been calving, chased into the fence and attacked by a wild dog. More detail is not necessary – you can imagine, or preferably not. I hadn’t seen this before; Steve had.  

The Oberon herd suffered losses too. They are weaker, more vulnerable and wild dogs go for the easy prey. Calving, chased, and both cow and calf dead. We lost too many cows and calves this way. For every bellowing cow, anxiety is high.  

Another morning calf count, and we found an Oberon calf down, but still alive. The mother and the rest of the herd abandoned it. We brought her into the yards, got her on to the milk and found a paralysis tick. After a dose of tick serum, persevering with the milk and lots of encouragement, she finally got up. The mum got interested in her again, and they were reunited. We needed that win, and so did they.

That little joy was soon derailed when I found an Oberon cow stuck in a dam. Her calf was at the edge of the dam watching. She was right in the middle and being in poor condition, her strength was minimal. I felt helpless. And in true helpless style, I cried.

There is no way you can leave a cow in that situation, so with the assistance of adrenalin and sheer determination, we got her out. But she wouldn’t or couldn’t get up. Maybe some feed and let her get over the shock, and she’ll recover. She didn’t recover. 

We are now looking after her calf, who is looking very healthy, thankfully.   

These experiences are nothing new and are part of life as a landowner. It doesn’t make for pleasant conversation, so many don’t share such stories. The drought makes the load heavier, stock weaker, stress levels higher, mental strength diminishes. We are OK. It’s the many you don’t hear about that need acknowledgement, assistance and understanding.  

And if you ever have a dog you no longer want, take it to the pound.

Robyn Piper from Great Lakes Paddocks

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