Chapter 14: Just a Bit of Bull

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There are many famous trios in the annals of history. Some of the most familiar are-

The Holy Trinity

The Sun, Moon and Stars

Three Musketeers

Three Little Pigs

Animal, Vegetable or Mineral

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Three Blind Mice

The Three Tenors

and a triangle is the strongest shape

As I write, the song that inspired the title of these memoirs often floats through my mind with variously appropriate words. The version that sticks this time is -

'Old McLarsen had some farms, EE-I-EE-I-O,

And on this farm he had three bulls, EE-I-EE-I-O,

With a King Kanute here,

A Napoleon there,

Here a King, there a Nap (and an Abbee, too),

Old McLarsen had some farms, EE-I-EE-I-O.

At first there was only King Kanute, an impressive red Hereford with the traditional white face. The 'ordinary' or average milk-producing cows were mated to him to produce stocky, more marketable calves for future meat production. Guess he could have been called Sheikh Kanute with his harem, but one of our friends got in first and King Kanute he remained.

"He couldn't raise our milk production though, could he?" I'd felt sad when I realised the scope of his value was in siring the adorable white-faced Hereford babes.

"Nope. No choice but using Artificial Insemination for speedily achieving that purpose."

Using our top producing milking cows as the mothers of artificially implanted semen from top bulls around the world, we could choose the most desirable physical attributes. Most of the bull calves went to market but out of the few we kept we finally chose one fantastic boy-from a French Canadian sire of renown.

This was our 'problem child'-the one who probably gave us the roots of our first grey hairs. I have written about the difficulties of his birth in Chapter 6 (To All the Girls we've Loved Before).

"Later on we wouldn't have chosen a 'tricky birth' calf as THE future sire." Kanute shakes his head slowly, thoughtfully. "Too much potential for trouble-"

"But we never regretted our Napoleon, did we?" I interrupt. "And none of his girls had birth problems, thank goodness." And then I add, "... well no more than usual, anyway."

This time Kanute is shaking his head in disbelief. "He certainly wasn't named for his stature. Napoleon Bonaparte was just a little squirt, wasn't he?"

"Mmm... I remember checking. That Napoleon was 5'6" (1.68m)" I chuckle as I imagine the two Napoleons side by side, and then I continue, "... no, it was his haughty, commanding attitude that won him his name." He was a 'born' Napoleon... and when he was old enough we mated him with most of our top girls, plus still using Artificial Insemination to keep the 'lines' clear of inbreeding.

In our maiden year as the first calvings began, we rapidly and alarmingly discovered our heifers (young cows on their first calf) often had difficult births due to the large heads of the calves. The necessity for a smaller bull became clearly apparent-and Abbee, the small all-black Aberdeen Angus joined the other Dads, Napoleon and King Kanute. He was a perfect choice of 'hubby' for our heifers, always siring fantastic small, nuggety calves that slipped out of their mothers almost effortlessly. Abbee's only problem was that he still wanted to steal milk from any cow who would let him suck-and there were many obliging ladies passing by his paddock within reach of an eager face pushed through the fence.

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