So, our weekend began by celebrating my youngest son’s birthday with five of his mates up at Binalong. Happy birthday Champ!
The kids love the farm, particularly the boys. 600 acres of playground where they can pretty much do whatever they want (under the watchful eye of an extremely responsible parent…my wife).
Anyway, after the ute rides, feeding the cows, way too much sugar and general mayhem, the birthday boy and his pals departed for Sydney on Sunday afternoon and I turned to my long list of chores.
First things first – feed the cows. Armed with some stale bread, we ventured to the back paddock to move our hay baler and check on the beasts. Whilst entertaining my son’s pals, I had noticed that we seemed to be one steer short. I put it down to either me miscounting or one of the animals hiding in the bush. But as my eldest boy, Jack, and daughter, Emmy, helped with dishing out feed, I definitely counted only 20 steers. One of our crazy Belted Galloways was missing.
My first thought was that the bugger had escaped the farm again and we would have to send out a search party. But before doing so, I wanted to walk the boundary fence to make sure the steer wasn’t injured.
Now, the back paddock is approximately 16 hectares so not the smallest area to walk round. However, after a couple of hours of traipsing up hill and down dale I made it to the last section of boundary fence.
Unfortunately, our missing Galloway was down, laying on his side and breathing shallowly. I walked over to see if the steer had any visible injuries as I was worried he may have been attacked by wild dogs as our neighbour had recently warned us there had been a number of sightings.
Inexplicably, the Beltie was suffering from a very nasty wound to its eye which had become infected. No other injuries were visible but the beast was suffering badly, being more of less unable to move. After making a couple of frantic calls to our more experienced farming friends, I decided that the most humane thing to do would be to put the animal down which I quickly did.
Whilst not the most “emotionally sensitive” bloke to have ever walked the face of the earth, I have to say that this experience has left a bitter taste as, instead of raising the Galloway to maturity and it providing a source of income and food for our families, I was putting it out of its misery and burning its carcass on a bonfire. I am guessing that any farmers reading this will tell me to harden up but you would have to have a heart of stone not to become attached at some level.
Interestingly, my son and daughter seemed to take it in their stride. There were no tears, just an acceptance that this was the right thing to do by the steer. Throughout the whole episode, our remaining beasts seemed to sense something was not right, gathering round the ute as I made the calls to seal its fate and filing up to the bonfire, almost like a funeral procession
I guess this is the reality of the farm and ultimately it’s the animals that bear the burden.