Fact number one: Cows are unbelievably noisy when you separate them from their calves.
Before the vet arrived, I helped (or tried to help) Ed separate the cows from the calves. It saves time for the vet, and it saves space in the handling yard. I was on gate duty (open / close as needed) and as a sort of cow speedbump, to stop them running through the gaps. But then I had to leave a gap to let their calves out. But not the cows. Cows in, calves out. While preventing the cows you put in from coming out again. I could hear the Benny Hill theme song playing in my head as I moved back and forth, waving hands, being still, and waving hands again.
We got there in the end. Ed was almost impossibly patient with me and with the cows.
Fact number two: Cows can be as idiotic as sheep.
This calf ran the opposite way and got stuck between the feed bars. Ed and I tried to move her in, then out, but she was stuck fast.
Ed never said a word but walked calmly off, and came back a few minutes later with an angle grinder.
He cut the bar and tried to push it open. It still wouldn't budge. He walked off calmly in the other direction and came back with a big hammer. A couple of hits shifted the bar to widen the gap. I pushed the calf's butt, he pulled the front end. Freed calf.
Ed never once swore, or lost his temper. He's as calm as his bovine charges. Mike and I can't even move sheep together without nearly starting divorce proceedings. Ed simply picked up where he left off, moving calves one way and cows the other.
I might have to hire Ed as my part time shepherd. It's cheaper than a divorce.
Due to some confusion, the vet was 2 hours late but the farmer's wife plied us with tea and cake so we were content to wait.
The vet arrived and kitted himself out in a neck-to-ankle plastic gown and two sets of armpit-length gloves, ready to insert the scanner and read the finding though his super-neato computer glasses.
Fact number three: Cows poop A LOT.
The vet inserts the scanner into the cow's rectum and reads the findings from above the uterus. He shouts out (above the din of blaring calves and bellowing cows) his findings, i.e. how pregnant is this cow, from empty (no calf), to 25 days pregnant, to 2 1/2 months, 4 months, etc. I write his findings next to the ID number, on paper with a pencil, in the rain, to be tallied by the farmer later. The tested cow leaves the "crush", which is a big crate that immobilises the head so the vet can do his work. A lever opens the crush, but I can only push the level high enough if I stand on my tiptoes. Ed did smile at this. My shortness amuses him.
Did I mention that cows poop a lot? It's also nearly liquid grass and after a few hours in the yard testing cattle, they pooped enough that a literal lake of poop was up to my ankles. And I got off easy. The vet, being right-handed, was covered in poop all along his right side from the neck down, after inserting his scanner into 85 cow butts.
And, when cows poop liquid grass, they poop right onto their tail. Which they flick about. I had a few cow poop beauty marks on my face before we finished.
It was only a few hours' work and I loved every minute of it. Maybe some sunshine and less poop would make it better, but it was fascinating work. And Monty the collie - my favourite farm dog - kept me company throughout.
Monty in action - he's quicker on the cows and more help than me!
I'm wearing a rubber suit so it's fine that Monty comes in for full-body cuddles, covered in....you guessed it...cow poops.
I was happy to be able to help my neighbour as he has so often helped me when I have been short of winter grass or when I needed somewhere to put my horses temporarily. He can peruse my notes on his pregnant cows when he gets home, although the paper is pretty damp and there are some suspicious stains on the paper. I bet you can guess what that's from.