21 April 2010

Cows Week

Yes, I'm afraid we have Cows.

Eight of them, to be precise. These poor cattle -- a weird mix of cows, heifers, bulls, tollies and even a month-old calf -- have been wandering around the neighbourhood, up and down the roads, for several days, now.

Not only are they a Hazard To Navigation, but they tend to wander into our garden (and, I suppose, everybody else's, too) and trample small trees, wander into the septic tank causing spectacular damage, nibble at fruit trees, and generally do Cow Stuff. Gods alone know where they've been getting water. We are 99.873% certain that they belong to the folk who live in the Forestry Houses, most of whom work for the local forestry company, MTO. Up to now the Forestry Folk have been allowed to graze their cattle in the firebreak between our smallholdings and the forest. But recently they were warned that, as part of a Fynbos rehab project, all the fences surrounding the firebreak were being removed. So it looks a lot like another case of people going, "Oh, it'll never happen." Only it has.

I decided to put these poor cattle -- and they really are in very poor condition -- to work. Not serious work, but work they'll benefit from and enjoy. I want them to eat off the long Kikuyu grass that infests what we refer to as the "Top Field" -- an area of around 25000m2 (about 30x90, but it varies) along our North border. The Top Field is relatively flat, though the topsoil is very thin, and I've long harboured ambitions of turning it over to field-scale crops -- grains, legumes, chiles on a larger scale -- in some sort of animal tractor/rotation system. Perhaps a Fukuoka style of thing. Not too fussed about the details.

So I ran the electric fence around the Field. Happily the cattle decided that they liked the look of the grass there while I was busy, so, by the time I had cleared tall grasses and branches from the path of the electric fence, planted a decent Earth pole, and set the whole thing up, they were all in the right place. And they've learned the Delights Of Electric Fencing pretty quickly.

I've informed locals so that if someone starts looking for their cattle they'll quickly find out where their cattle are being sheltered. I hardly want to be charged with Cattle Theft! The problem is that I really don't have a good supply of water for them. Right now we're managing by carrying buckets of (precious) house-water to a large bucket in their enclosure, but things cannot go on that way for too long. Then, too, these beasts really are in a very sad, parasite-infested and neglected state, and I would not like to leave them in that condition for too long, either. So that means I'll have to spend money on dips and such. Money I don't have... I guess I'm going to have to call Animal Welfare for some help if someone doesn't come and fetch them back in a day or two...

Still, I am enjoying having a bunch of Cows wandering about the place being useful. And once the grass is mowed shorter, I can, perhaps, invest in a couple of Pigs to root out the rest of the Kikuyu. Just a thought...

Sorry no pics. We left the camera with No.2 Son on the theory that it is better invested helping him earn his Honours degree than shooting happy snaps of the farm and sunsets.

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