Monday, 29 August 2011

The cow that carries its own fence

Even if it is just a pole.

The cow that carries its own fence

There has been a picture in the papers about a young bullock with his head stuck in a ladder, and that reminds me of what father used to do to a beast that would keep getting out.

In the days before electric fences, it would be post and rail fencing and some times barbed wire along the hedgerow boundaries of the fields. Hedges would be layered about every ten of fifteen years, a section being done each year as and when needed.

It was in the hedge that was perhaps wanting laying that gaps would start to appear, and most often there would be at least one in the herd that when its head pushes through a gap then pushes completely through making it difficult to keep them in no matter how you try to block the holes in the hedge.
Milking cows have always been tied up by the neck with a cow chain for years; well father had a spare chain about in his workshop, and also about the yard was a pole about six foot long. He matched the two together by bolting the chain to the centre of the pole, the exact fulcrum so it balanced reasonably level when hung round a beasts neck in the field. They got a bit upset initially but soon got used to walking with the pole swinging about in front of them and grazed quite happily with the pole laying on the ground dragging as they stepped forward around the field.

The best part was when they tried to walk through the gap in the hedge only to realise that they were carrying a pole that formed a mobile fence in front of them.

Another annoying beast can be the one that suckles the milk from the lactating cows, a beast that had been weaned a year or more ago and has realised that it can cross suckle any cow that will stand still for her. Back in our workshop is a wooden anti-suckling plate made by the village wheelwright out of a bit of elm plank six by four inch, it had been cleverly cut out to fit in the nose. It had almost to be tyre levered into the nose and due to the shape of the tips of the fingers of wood stayed in day and night.  The only thing a beast warring this plate could not do is drink from the treadle
water bowls in the cowsheds.
Another one I saw was one similar to the one described above by this time had three or four nails driven through it so as to prickle and cow she tried to suck, and more up to date ones are made of aluminium with a thumb screwed adjustable fingers to grip in the nose also a row of sharp spikes round the front. These are a bit flimsy and a tendency to get lost. 

I Remember Farther Hedge Laying

Father liked his hedge laying, and every winter he,
Set about a big rough hedge, and stock proof it would be,
First he cut the hedge stakes, down in Moor Cover wood,
Then to sharpen on a block, as pointed as he could,

 He honed his axe and bill hook, to cut wood as if were carrot ,
Put on his holster and leather glove, took big wooden mallet,
He stripped the long tall growers, cleft them to the stool,
Always layer them up a slope, woven in the stakes the rule.

 The top of his hedge was bound, like edge of a basket wove,
He used long whippy willow strips, all firm and tight he strove,
Burned up all the brushwood, with a great big blazing fire,
Then he cleaned the ditch out, and put up new barbed wire.

 The new growth grew up through, from the stools below,
Now a brand new hedge so strong, new boundary  hedgerow,
Not need layering now for decade, till the gaps appear,
Then the master will return his skills to make a new frontier.

Countryman  (Owd Fred)

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)    

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