Working with Farm Relief for the past number of years I have had a few encounters with aggressive animals on farms. As a result I have become very aware of my own mortality. I always came out on top in battles of will, so perhaps I was a bit cocky.
One day, however, I realised that the bull I was trying to cajole was not for turning. After a less than graceful swan-dive into a nearby cattle crush, I was glad of the few grazes and my mucky face, because the force of him hitting the railing gave me my first proper fright. Since then I’ve been surprised by other bloody-minded animals including one freshly calved Limousine heifer who spotted me taking her sickly calf out of a tight corner and charged.
I suppose risk is part of the farming game and we all accept that from day one. Vets have lots of close encounters with farm animals and any time the conversation arises, they have stories to tell. It is one of the aspects of being a stranger and walking onto someone’s farm to do a job with the animals.
The cattle all know and respect the farmer. But let a strange person walk in and try to do something, even if it’s to check on a sick calf, or round up the last line of cows for milking, and you can see a side to the animals the farmer never sees. Unfortunately if you’re relief milking, he’s usually not there to bear witness and your story sounds exaggerated if you decide to bother telling it.
So as a rule of thumb I would ask farmers to keep bulls for no more than two or three years max and to get rid of any animals that show aggressive tendencies, because a strong-willed animal will breed a similar offspring, and these are traits our animals don’t need for us to be good farmers.