One of the most stressful annual exercises in our farming calendar is TB testing. Every year we try to get a little bit better at rounding up the cattle and putting them through the yards, and every year we promise to put them through the yards more often so that they get more used to it. We're definitely better at rounding them up but we still don't put them through more than once a year. Will try harder!
This year, there was added pressure to get this done before I disappeared to the US for a short construction shutdown in Pittsburgh. The tester assigned to us was unable to book in before I was due to leave but he did arrange for a colleague to attend. The day for the injections was one week before I was due to fly out, with the return visit to check three days later.
We already had the cattle grazing the hay paddock and so it was easy to set up temporary fencing to guide them towards the outer fenced area before the yards themselves. The idea is to get them all in there and then we put through whoever heads into the yards first -- no particular order. By 7:30am on the Saturday morning, Niki and I had all the cattle in the outer yard, Stew (the steer) was in the crush and Bonnie, our largest beast was in the race behind him with a wooden post holding her in place.
The tester arrived. One by one they went through, until we got to wee Flora. She walked into the crush and then managed to stick her head and front legs through the headbail, becoming wedged. Freeing her involved disconnecting the vertical bars in the headbail, pushing her back into the crush and then opening the gate to let her go.
It was a complication but the entire testing process still only took around 15 minutes.
Tuesday morning came around and it was time to round them up again. This time, they wouldn't go into the outer yard at all. Even with the two of us trying to herd them, we only succeeded in making them go round in circles. This is when the stress levels rise, especially when we could see the TB tester coming through our front gate and heading up the hill to the yards. Luckily at that point, Stew thought it would be a good idea to head into the fresh grass in the outer yard and all the others followed. Phew!
All good. Finally we were left with only Bonnie and Hamish (the bull). We got Bonnie into the crush and then tried to persuade Hamish to get behind her. He was having none of it and started to get a bit grumpy. On each attempt to get him in the yard, he'd drop his head and swing his horns. At one point I thought he was going to have a go, so I dived over the electric fence.
Meanwhile, Bonnie managed to get her horns (and therefore herself) completely wedged in the crush.
We finally manoeuvred Hamish in behind her and he checked OK, so we backed him out to join the others. I had to dismantle part of the frame to get poor Bonnie's horns free but she was very well behaved during all this.
Lessons learnt for next year:
All in all, it was a success and didn't take too long. We do keep getting better at these things. I just need to learn how not to lose sleep over them!
Posted by FarmerWan
About Ewan and Niki
Scottish mechanical engineer with a deep and abiding passion for good food. Outstanding cook. Builder of lots of stuff. Cattle whisperer. Connoisseur of beer. A lover rather than a fighter.
Kiwi writer and broadcaster who hates cabbage, even though she knows it's good for her. Chook wrangler. Grower of food and flowers. Maker of fine preserves. Lover of dancing and wine. Definitely a fighter.