Things are not going well and I’m hoping that writing this down will help, or at least give me a good place to whinge (which might not help but usually feels like it does).
My parents are on holiday overseas until the end of June. Since they left last week, the cows on agistment down the road from the farm have escaped at least three times. Twice they went through a neighbouring property and then out onto the public road, where it was just lucky that nobody ran into them in the dark.
I haven’t found where they’re getting out. None of the fences are good – any individual cow or calf could manage to get through anywhere it wanted to – and there were spots where one line of wire has broken, but I haven’t found a gap where a whole group could go, and as there are calves in the mix too (including four almost-newborns I found yesterday) somewhere there must be an obvious and easy hole in the fence for them to walk through, and a track either side of it. And I haven’t seen anything like that.
One boundary of the agistment property runs along a creek which is forested, so that’s probably where they’re getting out – I can’t see the fence when it’s overgrown – but if they’re running under bushes there’d be a track into that spot, and I haven’t found that.
Complicating matters, the property is too steep for me to drive the tractor on. And walking around it is awful: in some spots the weeds are head-high (after walking through them yesterday, last night it took 30 minutes to clear my clothes of farmer’s friends, little spiky weeds that attach as you brush past them). And I heard reports that a neighbour saw three brown snakes only two weeks ago (even though it’s cold at night now, so I would have thought snakes would be hibernating). And the most likely reason the cows are getting out is that they’re being chased by dogs, either wild or domestic running wild, so I keep fearing that somewhere down in the valley out of phone range I’ll be, y’know, attacked by wild dogs.
Yesterday we reached worst-case scenario, kind of, because a neighbour who has had the cows through his property a few times already insisted (very nicely) that something be done about them because their manure is getting into his macadamia nut harvest, and the co-op threatened to refuse his output. The poor man rounded up the damn cows and put them through into a second neighbour’s place, and I walked around trying to find a hole in the fence and to get them back into the place they’re supposed to be, but by late afternoon I hadn’t been able to do either. Then, roughly 15 minutes after I’d left the cows at the creek (thinking they’d be okay to stay there overnight, seeing there’s loads of grass), they’d run back into the macadamia neighbour’s place again (I have no idea where or how or why) and he had to round them up and get them out again, this time into a third neighbour’s place. He rang me in some distress, and I was then stressing as well, and then, to top things off, on the drive home from the farm I found the cows had run through the latest neighbour’s property and out the front gate and were all out on the public road in the dark.
With some help from a different neighbour and the farm’s new owner (and her little kids, who jumped into the car and sat in it quietly while she helped block the cows into the yards by car-light and torch-light) we got the cows to walk up the road and into the farm’s paddock instead of putting them back into the agistment property. At least they won’t get into the macadamia neighbour’s place overnight.
So, the immediate problem is over for the moment. Next: there are still 4 or 5 cows and their very young calves out of the agistment property and across the creek in another neighbour’s place, and I haven’t been able to think of a way to get them back. It’ll be a long walk for the babies even if I can find a way to get them back to the agistment property, and I can’t imagine how they got over the creek in the first place, but now they’ll also have to walk back to the farm along the public road, which they won’t have done before, so it’ll be a slow trip. (It would be better to leave them where they are until Dad gets back, but if there are dogs down there the calves will be targets.)
Running out of time to finish my whinging, so let’s go to points:
– they’re not my cows and it’s not my property; I don’t see how I’ve got stuck with solving this;
– the farm’s new owners can’t help very much: the man has gone back to work (he flies in and out) and the woman has small children to look after;
– there are now too many cows in the farm’s paddocks for winter and I’ll have to buy in hay or something, which will be really expensive, and might not keep the cows happy enough not to escape again;
– I can’t ask Dad what to do because if he knows about what’s going on he’ll be worried all the time and it’ll ruin their trip, plus they’re on a ship at the moment and I doubt I could contact them anyway;
– I don’t know how to get the cows and calves back from across the creek.
– forgot to say earlier that a neighbour’s bull is in with them, and he’s previously created trouble when trying to move them around (he stands in the gateways and refuses to let anyone else through), but last night he was pretty co-operative, thank goodness.