Thursday, 3 February 2011

Reality kicks in

If you are reading this, you probably spend too much time staring at a screen. I certainly do. Editing a wildlife magazine for me means lots of time spent in the office, and little time engaging with nature. But I do have a large dose of reality on my doorstep. I have a small herd of Welsh Black cows to graze my meadows and, almost a bi-product, produce organic beef. This week the time had come for one of my steers. Approaching 30 months, his value would sharply decline once over that magic age, for no good reason that I can think of – slow maturing traditional breeds need longer than that.

Anyway, the decision was taken, I put him in the cattle crush and starting clipping beneath him to remove matted lumps of hair and dung, to clean him up. He thought little of this. Three kicks in succession alerted me to the difficulties of my task. The fourth scored a direct hit on my gloved hand. At that point, perhaps satisfied that he had made his feelings known, he settled down to eat the bucket of rolled barley before him, and I was able to get on with the job. An hour later he was on his way, the paperwork complete.

So I’ve had my dose of reality for the week, and have felt like a farmer for half a day. It keeps me grounded, and gives some practical basis to any preaching that I might indulge in from time to time; like berating the folly of scientists who advocate increasing food production by intensifying output on current farmland, apparently unaware that traditional farming systems are vital for wildlife. I’ve learnt about farming and nature the hard way – at a rather painful first hand.

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