"Oh boy. Here they come. This should be good... maybe?" My heart beat faster and my mouth went dry. Ridiculous... don't be stupid, I told myself. And myself answered, Yes, but... they're cows, and cows hate change—even if it's for their own good.
Despite their curiosity earlier in the week when we began working along the top of the paddocks, they had slowly accepted this was OK—'regular'—to see us there, fiddling with the fence each day. But today was different. Today the gate was open to the new 'race' (a long corridor) leading to the dairy. Today however, there was one additional difference they'd never experienced... an electric fence on each side.
Our Dairy farm was run-down, mistreated and neglected when we began. For the longest time our finances dictated patches on patches of our fencing.
"Mile upon mile of tie-wire," I sigh. My spirits sink even lower as I feel again the look and pain of the cracked skin of my fingers, the busted fingernails. Gloves weren't an option for such fiddly mending of holes and strengthening of sadly sagging fence lines.
"We reckoned there was more tie-wire patching than the original fencing." Kanute raises his eyebrows. "Tough times for sure, when you can only afford tie-wire."
"Humph..." I grunt. "And how excited were we when we could pick up some old star-droppers at clearing sales?"
Kanute chuckles. "Lap of luxury, huh? Could actually brace all those patches and keep the fences upright."
Now I shake my head. "Hmm... that new fencing was SO high on our wish list." I sigh heavily. Electric fencing was just a beautiful dream. "No matter how many times we tried to think it through, our budget brought us back to reality with a helluva thump."
"How about all the late-night sessions agonising over the best layouts?"
We dreamed it and drew sketch after sketch; we pored over suggestions in magazines and planned some more; which paddocks to connect; could we afford all those gates?
"Had to settle for 'cocky' gates—couldn't afford proper swinging weld-mesh and steel ones until much later." More head-shaking as we relive that reluctant but stoic acceptance of the inevitable.
At last the day arrived when we could fit our dream to our finances and we made final decisions on our 'race'—its width, its length, and the all-important fencing. This would bypass several paddocks but have gates that could open into them, allowing our milking girls access to a 'new' paddock every few days—a proven milk-production booster. The added bonus would be the increased ease of bringing the herd in for their twice daily milking, in the knowledge that our 65 girls would be contained in a long, controllable line once they entered the 'race'.
Now, after all the dreaming, planning and physically creating it, the first 'switched on' day was happening as the 'girls' met the new beast on the block. In time, they would develop a strange knowing or sensitivity to whether an electric fence is turned on or off, by putting their nose up close to it without actually touching the wire... but not on this day of initiation.
At first they all bunched up into an impossibly small, tight group, refusing to take the first step into the unknown. The sheer force of numbers pushed the first girls into this no-man's land. With eyes impossibly widened, they approached the wire—up to a hair-breadth away. Whether the first cows to have their shocking experiences were nudged by the cows behind, or chose their fate, the reaction was identical.
"A massive bellow... that was first," says Kanute. He can't help laughing, though the thought of touching an electric wire with a wet nose IS a bit 'shuddery'. "... and the eyes rolling back so you could only see the whites. Looked like they'd gone blind!"
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Old McLarsen Had Some Farms - a memoir: Book Two - The Milky WayNon-Fiction
As the title suggests, my second book of memoirs encompasses tales from our decade of dairying on our own farm, back in our home State of South Australia. A different learning curve from the first farm, but no less steep. This time much experience w...