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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dirty Cows

I’ve just found my new favourite TV show. “Dirty Cows” is the UK version of “The Bachelor”, wherein 10 babes from the city wander out to the country with their stiletto heels and manicures to try and win the heart of a handsome young farmer (and the key to his 1500-acre estate!).
The women are challenged to milk cows, muck out horse stalls, gut fish and complete other similarly disgusting tasks directly related to farm life. In addition to the fear factor of touching something that smells revolting, these women are also charged with the daily duties of a typical low-tech farmwife: cooking, cleaning, gardening and caring for the animals. They have to get up early in the morning, forego the makeup and get to work, without worrying about breaking a nail – or they won’t win the hand of the Farmer, one Alexy van Kimmenade.
Having lived with British people before, I am familiar with the affectionately derogatory term “cow” and its use as a popular way to address one’s female friends. This is not the worst that English and Australian folk call their mates, mind you, but I am bound too tightly by the community newspaper code of ethics to write the other terms here. British slang is one aspect of this show that makes it so fascinating to me, when and if I can make out the variety of English accents.
I find myself relating to these women, because I too was out of my comfort zone when I moved to my husband’s 200-acre sheep farm last year. In order to impress him of my natural farmwife abilities, I found myself scooping poop and cleaning up freshly born lambs right along side him. There are some things, however, I will not do. Thankfully, he doesn’t ask.
Our own set of dirty cows had an exciting weekend. When the Farmer noticed them out in the field, dancing with each other (they were taking turns dancing the lead, if you catch my drift), we decided it was indeed time to call 1-800-BULL.
Annie helped me to lure Betty and Ginger and their calves from the far corner of the pasture and into the barn, with a dish of sweet feed. The cows spent the rest of the morning happily resting, away from the sheep, locked in with fresh bales of hay.
At noon, the technician from Eastern Breeders arrived. Jim was patient while the Farmer and his two helpers – all 3 of us confessed rookies at the business of rodeo – ushered Betty and then Ginger into the chute. I am so happy that the “girls” were easy on us. They went right into the long, skinny pen, one right after the other. Betty was after the sweet feed. Ginger was after Betty. I held the cow candy under Betty’s nose, just out of range. She put her head through the gate to lick it, and I quickly squeezed the lock on her neck. She tried to wriggle free but when she couldn’t she just resigned herself to eating the feed, which was now within her reach. The Farmer slid a board in behind her so she couldn’t back up. Note to self: next time don’t reach in between the cow and the boards to give her a reassuring pat or you might end up with a broken arm. (I got away with a bruise).
I felt bad for Ginger, because she came in after Betty and she couldn’t reach the sweet feed . She was a pretty good patient, except for when she thought she might be able to escape the rubber gloves by burrowing under Betty. Her treatment complete, she was allowed to back up and out of the chute. Without any sweet feed.
Betty’s turn was next, and she pretty much kept eating throughout the procedure, except for one long, low moooooo….
Once released from the chute, the cows joined their calves and wandered out into the barnyard. Instead of going out to pasture, however, they wandered over to the fence to look at us. There was a bit of mooing back and forth. Annie gave them some more sweet feed. I guess if they were in the doctor’s office they would have been given a lollipop.
We decided to inseminate the cows with semen from “Ribeye”. He is known to produce calves that are small and easy to birth but they grow quickly.
Maybe I will go out to the pasture to show Betty and Ginger the catalog picture of their bull. Poor girls – they were gypped. They didn’t even get to meet him.

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