Tak­ing care of busi­ness

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION - By Ge­off Adams

Farm­ers have known for a long time that wives and moth­ers make the best calf rear­ers.

I’ve prob­a­bly of­fended a few read­ers al­ready with that broad open­ing, but I can’t help it. That’s just how it is.

Women seem to have the edge in nur­tur­ing and rais­ing young, and a clever man will soon re­alise that his part­ner/ wife/daugh­ter/sis­ter has more pa­tience than he does.

There weren’t any sis­ters in my fam­ily, so the boys got the job.

The mem­ory of the cold, frosty, Au­gust morn­ings and the windy late af­ter­noons are still with me.

Over­alls pulled on over my school uni­form. A pair of ill­fit­ting rub­ber boots. A beanie.

Out into the half light of the morn­ing, re­gret­ting read­ing so late into the pre­vi­ous evening.

The hopes for our fu­ture were small by to­day’s stan­dards: just 20 or so mixed breed calves weaned off their moth­ers and des­tined to be­come re­place­ments for our mod­est milk­ing herd.

All bear­ing ear tag names and sep­a­rated into dif­fer­ent pens ac­cord­ing to age.

They never needed call­ing for a feed; I sus­pect they heard the screen door bang as I left the back porch be­cause ev­ery morn­ing they were lined up ready to go, driven to suck­ing each oth­ers ears due to the an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Teach­ing them to drink was one of the tough­est parts of the job.

I used to strad­dle the calf’s neck and, hold­ing them in this type of head­lock, I could at least get them in the gen­eral area of the teat.

But that rub­ber teat cer­tainly wasn’t a good sub­sti­tute for mum and it took long hours to con­vince some of them that mother’s milk would flow if they sucked hard enough.

And long hours punc­tu­ated by some per­sonal an­guish as they butted up­wards and con­nected with del­i­cate parts of my anatomy.

Be­fore we used plas­tic straws and teats, they had to be taught to drink straight from the bucket and the less said about this task the bet­ter.

With some lov­ing at­ten­tion, ac­cess to clean wa­ter and a few calf pel­lets thrown in, we seemed to es­cape the dreaded scours and rarely had a death.

I had a vested in­ter­est in get­ting a good re­sult as one of the calves would end up at the calf scales with a cheque for me.

I struck an even bet­ter deal with my brother who paid me for rais­ing two calves un­til they were poddy size.

My brother was proud of the cre­ative names I had cho­sen: Tor­rey Canyon and Whisky Echo, al­though it wasn’t un­til af­ter they were gone I let on that one was named af­ter a ship and the other af­ter a plane.

The ship caused an oil spill and the plane crashed.

Set­ting up school por­traits with a li­brary back­drop was in­tended to im­press oth­ers with a more aca­demic look.

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