It’s ear piecing day! Or as we say calf marking.
On Friday we mustered our Autumn herd of 400 cows and calves and finally got them to the yards. The noise overnight was horrendous as they all tried to mother up.Today, Saturday the calves have to be marked with ear tags and vaccinated for a number of things.
It is a long day and we need extra hands so two utes arrive early with Dave, his son and a mate and Zac our station hand (and Dave’s step son) and his partner Stef. So, 7 with all of us. We all have designated jobs.
Dave turns up without his teeth and with gloves on for some reason; Stef (who is a beautician by trade) turns up with false eyelashes, woven hair strands of a number of hues and as usual, a left hand full of rings. She also shows me her new ear piercing which joined the other three she already had. None of these things handicaps her at all; she is one of the hardest workers we have. She even does fencing and ties off barb wire with all her rings.
The boys very quickly draft off the calves from the cows and we are ready to begin.
Stef has all the tags and applicator ready, blue for males and green for females. They are lined up on the bench with the NLIS tags. These are a legal requirement so cattle can be traced over their lives; it is called the National Livestock Identification Scheme. Stef is also responsible for giving each calf an injection of 7 in 1.
We soon get into a rhythm and by lunchtime we have processed about 150. Each batch is released back to the outer yards where the cows are waiting with dripping sacs of milk and it quietens down a little. We stop for lunch but it is hard to get going again after a break and the boys are lolling in the hammock. Our Working Dog is also pooped and having a rest on the grass.
The bigger calves always seem to work their way to the back and as we get towards the last groups, one large heifer decides she has had enough and leaps out of the race, high jumps the rail and ends up in the yard where we are all standing.
Stef and I scramble up to the top of the yard rails and the heifer launches at us, its hooves just below the highest rail. It falls back then chases the boys around and round the bench, knocking buckets flying until it is persuaded to exit the yard and join the queue again. The second time with a piece of swift calf cradle catching, we secure it and give it the full treatment.
Dave is giving us a running tally as he releases the calves and counts them out; we are nearly at 300 and only the really big ones are left and they have to be funnelled into the main cattle crush where they are very securely boxed in.Dave is handling them and I think he needs knee pads on rather than gloves as he gets quite a few kicks in the shins.
By 5pm we are finished and feeling weary, dusty and with a few bruises. But it is one of our fastest marking days and all the crew will get a healthy bonus and a few slabs no doubt. As for me I just need a long warm Radox bath!