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July 14, 2012 / annakpf11

Calf in the Field

From Village Newsletter: Dog Worrying Livestock

An out-of-control dog chased and attacked a calf in Patrick Blount’s field. The herd took fright and charged, demolishing two fences and injuring another calf. Patrick shouted at the dog owner who eventually got his dog under control and left hurriedly. Patrick then had to spend his afternoon attending to the calves and repairing the fences. He has asked for all dog walkers to keep their dogs under control and on a lead if necessary while walking through fields with animals present. He is prepared to and has a right to shoot a dog if it is worrying livestock.

Life is never dull in the countryside. For farmers and livestock, it is never easy.

Early one spring morning we wake to Farmer Blount’s cows bellowing from the field behind Long Barn. It’s not the first time we’ve heard such bovine roars, but today’s groans sound particularly distressed. Something is not quite right, I think.

The pained noises continue after Dave has gone to work. I wonder if a cow is giving birth.

I hang a load of wash on the line and still the cows continue their plaintive mooing. The last time Blount’s cows complained so long and loud, a fox was in our neighbor’s henhouse, killing the rooster and all the chickens. Before I can talk myself out of the impulse, I pull on my Wellingtons, stride out the front gate and up a grassy lane to the cow pasture.

Glad of my tall boots, I wade through the meadow, dew-wet stalks swishing in my wake, and make my way to the pasture boundary. I skirt a thicket of stinging nettles, Hawthorne and Elder until I find a gap in the hedge big enough to peer through. And there, right in front of me, a large, caramel colored cow. She’s lying on her side, and nestled against her belly, I can just make out the black and white hindquarters of a calf.

The caramel cow stares at me and then lumbers to her feet. She bows her head and licks her calf’s damp, matted flank. I angle closer, straining to see the calf’s black and white ribcage rise and fall. Instead, I see its coal black head, and its lifeless eye. The mama cow looks at me as if to say, “I’ve done all I can.”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. What else can I do?

This is an isolated corner of pasture, separated from the rest of the herd, and I’m afraid it might be days before the farmer finds the stillborn calf. I scan the field’s perimeter and catch sight of a man repairing a section of fence. He is too far away to hail, so I make my way along the bramble and barbed wire border until I am opposite him, then call and wave my arms. But he’s finished his task, and instead of noticing me, he leaves the field.

I hurry back to Long Barn, hop on my bike and pedal through the village to the snug brick bungalow where I know Farmer Blount lives. His wife answers the front door, and I explain about the dead calf.

Now I’ve done all I can. Or have I?

I remember the calf’s sleek black head, its white dappled flank, its neat hooves and dark, sightless eye. I think about how its mother wanted it to live. I cycle home, and write this epitaph.

2 Comments

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  1. carrington p brown / Sep 2 2012 3:13 pm

    This could be Bath County ,Va.USA looks just like my field

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