Saturday, 29 October 2011

Not so many bulls about farms these days

Not so many bulls about farms these days, particularly the dairy herds. Before the advent of Artificial Insemination, you often reared a bull calf out of one of your own best cows, the resultant heifers coming into your herd and completing their first lactation, would be very hit and miss. Also you had three more years of calves on the way before the bull had been proven.

It was not uncommon to see cows with curled up toes and long pendulous udders often having front teats pointing east west. However once AI came in and a few years later they could offer proven bulls with superior confirmation, the misshapen feet and udder started to disappear within ten years. Another benefit was there was less dangerous bulls to handle in your own yard one your own farm.

Alost every farm in our area could relate to a narrow escape or injury from trying to move or separate a bull from the cows.

At home the bull had his own loose box, the only window was a brick arched half moon hole on the back wall where he could put his head out, but even then he could see nothing, only fresh air. To serve a cow in season, she was loosed onto the farm yard and the bull pen door opened to let him out, while he was busy the cowman would pop in quickly and bed up with straw and put in some dairy nuts or corn, and being used to this routine, as soon as the cow had been served he would head back to his pen at full gallop and the door shut.

However training the bull to get used to a routine was hard and dangerous, this one day (in around 1946) when we got home from school father was in the house and mother had been away for the day. This was a bit unusual and we thought nothing about it until evening, when the cowman Philip came to the door for his wages, mother answered the door and first thing Philip asked was “how’s the old chap”.
 Mother asked him why, and he replied that the bull had had him down on the yard that afternoon, and had escaped with a good heavy bruising of his legs and thighs.  Mother was very shocked and upset that father had not told her, he knowing what her reaction would be had not planned on telling her. But Philip had let the cat out of the bag.

A few years prior to that incident, soon after we had moved to Seighford, we had a new young bull, and the plan was to tie him up in a single stall along with other cows, usually if the bull and a cow are crammed into a single stall, and eating, you stand a chance of getting a chain round his neck. It was only a slim chance that did not pay off, as the old man Harry who was helping father and Philip the cowman at that time, got a mauling and badly knocked about.
The bull was put down and old Harry never came back to work on the farm again, in fact he got a job with the County Council as a road man, and his stretch of country road was about three miles, all through the village and right past his own house. His one leg was so badly damaged the for the rest of his life he had a very bad limp, as though one leg was shorter than the other

I had a narrow escape one day when walking a young bull down the lane to run with a bunch of heifers. We had reared the bull from a calf and had him leading all through his early years, but now he was up on his toes so to speak, and realised when we got within a hundred or so yards from the field and he could see the heifers where he was going.

He started walking faster , faster than I wanted to go, then he started bouncing, up with the front, then up with the backend, all the time getting faster. He had got his head in front of me and was shouldering me sideways closer and closer to the hedge bank, a steep grassy hedge bank about  three foot high, with a three foot hawthorn hedge on top, a just off vertical six foot.
 I started doing the wall of death walk along the near vertical grass, then on the next bounce his shoulders almost underneath me I was pitched clean over the hawthorn hedge. Fortunately as well as a pole, of which I lost grip, I also had a long chain that was attached through his nose ring up round his horns, so had still got a hold on him. Apart from a few bruised ribs and a dented ego, it was a hard lesson to learn and just lucky to have gotten away with it.

The bull, our bull, was often tethered on a long chain with a 56lbs weight to anchor him to one place, the chain was threaded through his nose ring and fastened round his horns. He soon learned to move the weight by lining up the chain in the middle of his nose and under his chin, and then lift his head up sharply. He could do this from along his side and flipping his head violently, so violent that on one occasion the half cwt  (25kg) was flying 10 foot in the air, all the energy pulling the chain was round his horns and nose with no weight on his ring.

So to sum up, no bulls can be trusted, not even the Herefords and Aberdeen Angus, also some newly calved cows are just as dangerous. All these animals are seven to ten times heavier than us, so proper handling and housing facilities are essential. There has been a  lot of people killed over the years and still up to this date. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you will be badly hurt or killed.

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