Blog - Page 13 of 17 - Margôt Tesch, Writer
October 12, 2009

The Grief that drought brings

The Shrinking Dams

We are in damage control. What do we do with our stock when there is no water and no feed? We had opened every gate to every paddock to give the stock access to all the water holes and any feed left on the block. Then we had to close them again. The thick mud in some of the dams is too much of a hazard. We have to keep the stock out.

Too late to save

I found another cow stuck in the mud while out on a muster. She was nearly spent poor soul. She must have been trapped for a couple of days. Even her head was stuck as she lay on her side. She couldn’t even lift it up. Actually, she looked dead. But I watched carefully for a while and saw her ear flicker. It was alarming to see her still clinging hopelessly to life with no hope of relief. She couldn’t be pulled out, she was past it.

Chris shot off two rounds to give her some peace. The blood was surprisingly bright as it oozed into the dam.

Saving the cow

Chris had found yet another cow a few kilometres away in a similar predicament but she was in better shape. We decided to attempt to pull her out.

Chris backed up the Patrol as close as possible over the dam wall. We tied a strap around her neck and tied the other end to the tow bar. Her front quarters were buried up to the base of her neck. She must have been thrashing around for a while but only succeeded in burying herself deeper, like quicksand. But her head was up and she looked alert. She was aware we were there to help her.

Chris got in the car ready to drag her out. I stood watch to tell him how it was going as he couldn’t see the old girl. Pulling a 400-500 kilo beast out by the neck isn’t pretty. I kept stopping Chris as I was worried he would break her neck.

“I just have to try to pull her out. There is nothing else I can do,” he said as he got back in the car for the third time determined. He didn’t stop this time. I just stood and watched as the Patrol heaved and eventually “popped” her out of the mud hole. She didn’t even try to help herself.

We rushed over to get the strap off and to coax her to stand up. She didn’t look well. In fact, she looked worse. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. She was really in distress.

I couldn’t stop the tears any longer. It was so upsetting to see her in such a state when we were trying to help her, to save her.

“Just like Ross said,” Chris cursed. “If the mud doesn’t kill them you really fuck them up when you pull them out.” But what else could we do? We couldn’t just leave her there to die. We had to try.

We decided to let her recover. She might stand up of her own accord. I had to walk away from the car to try to compose myself. The tears wouldn’t stop, the impact of the drought crushing down on me. We were failing in our duty of care to look after these animals.

There was no hope. We couldn’t save her. A few hours later Chris put six bullets in her head. She kept moving and I wanted her out of her misery so he kept shooting till finally she gave out her last breath.

The drought is such an emotional battle. How do you remain positive when you have to deal with such grief? It was a tough day.

Poddy Calf

There was one positive out the tragic event. We were able to eventually run down her calf. Now I have my first poddy calf. I’m calling him “Muddy”.  At least we saved him.

Its funny, but having a calf to bottle feed twice a day is making me feel like I really am a grazier.

October 7, 2009

Trauma up the back paddock

The day starts as normal

We set off pretty early on our planned day’s activity: Chris clearing scrub on the dozer, me poisoning some regrowth. I did my own thing on the quad bike and we agreed to meet for morning tea at the dozer.

I was working away, lost in my thoughts when he turned up unexpectedly in the car and talked to me through the window, “I found a dead cow at the dam. She was stuck in the mud. There was another old girl stuck as well. I pulled her out but she didn’t get up. Don’t know how she’ll go.”

It was bad news, the impact of the drought. The shrinking dams were turning into death traps with too much exposed mud. It wasn’t a good start to the day. Chris set off to check all the dams.

The Recovery

My work done, I fired up the quad to meet Chris as arranged. As I reached the dozer, I saw him approaching unexpectedly on foot from the opposite direction. I wondered where the car was.

“I got dry-bogged.” He informed me. “I’ll have to get the dozer down there to pull it out.” He had walked a long way from the car with no water. It was fortunate we arrived at the dozer at the same time.

The recovery operation swung into gear when we got to the bog site.

The Patrol’s right wheels were almost buried in the dust and she was leaning rather alarmingly. It’d faltered trying to pull the trailer up a steep bank, coming out of the gully. The trailer was jack knifing behind at an awkward angle.

“You’ll have to steer the car,” Chris said. I could feel my heart racing in my chest immediately.

With the snatchy strap in place I opened the driver’s door gingerly, hoping that wouldn’t tip it over. It was awkward to climb in but I managed. With the dozer purring, Chris inched forward to take up the slack on the snatchy. He gently tugged the car with the dozer. But instead of the car moving forward, it sunk further on it’s lean to the right! Chris stopped immediately.

I was panicking now, my hands trembling and my chest in pain. I didn’t want to be in that car if it rolled over! We got out and circled the situation again – inspected and re-inspected the predicament. It took a bit of doing but we managed to unhook the trailer.

Its moments like these I hate living in the bush – facing harsh realities with no one around to help. You have to rely on your own ingenuity – ingenuity I don’t feel confident I have. But you can’t walk away either though I wanted to just ride home and have a cup of tea. We had to get the car and trailer out and Chris needed my help to do it. I had to dig deep.

I faced my worst fear – the car might roll over. What would happen to me if it did? Probably not much as it would just stop on its side. I climbed back into the car and wound up the window. At least it would provide some meager protection. The seatbelt was locked due to the lean so I couldn’t put it on. I couldn’t really say I was calmer but I was determined.

We tried again with Chris pulling from a different angle. I worked hard to keep those wheels turned in the right direction. My heart was in my mouth. Success! Now that it was no longer weighed down by the trailer, the dozer was able to gently drag the car to firmer ground without tipping it over. Phew!

I feel sick in the tummy just thinking about it even now.

By the time we had pulled out the trailer as well, re-hooked it to the Patrol, and driven them to surer ground, our day was over. I felt rather exhausted. It was good to get home and have a glass of wine. You just never know how your day will turn out when you are out in the bush!

September 29, 2009

From Drought to a Bog

A planned day out to finish off a fence way up the back, came to an abrupt halt.



We unhooked the trailer and Chris managed to drive the car out. He moved it to solid ground (or so he thought) in a different position. He wanted to have a go at pulling the trailer out. It didn’t go so well…

The chassis was sitting on the ground. So what did we do? We had morning tea of course…

Then we brought out the big guns.

But that didn’t work so well either…

We finally succeeded but we did leave a big mess…

And so we spend lots of time in the house waiting for it to dry out…

September 29, 2009

We lost one of our bulls

A tragic loss

This week we had to bring in the main herd. Despite our feeding regime, some of them are looking poorly – especially those feeding bigger calves. It’s an opportunity to do a bit of stock take, look over them all and to wean the bigger calves.

We set off reasonably early and checked each paddock, gathering them together. We were about 500 yards from the gate to the laneway when I came upon one of the bulls, Investigator. He was down.  He didn’t look very well. His eyes were bulging a little and his tongue was hanging out inelegantly to one side. His legs stuck out in front of him like four pins. They looked a little stiff and awkward. Our other bull, Injector, was circling him. Injector nudged Investigator’s back, trying to push him to his feet. It was distressing to watch. My throat felt choked up.

I pulled up on the quad and called Chris on the two way radio. We decided to finish mustering the herd into the laneway so we could go back to assist Investigator.

We invest a lot of money in our bulls. You need to put a good bull over your cows if you want to breed prime beef. They are quite majestic beasts weighing in around 600 kilos (or more). They have a presence of their own. You can only really muster them because they want to stick around with the cows. On their own they’ll just stand and look at you and not move no matter how much you beep the horn and yell.

Investigator wasn’t looking very majestic today.

It was probably about 10 minutes later we came back to see what we could do to get him back on this feet.

When we got there, he was stone cold dead. Just like that, gone.

Injector was still circling and nudging his mate. We had to wait for him to move away before we could get a closer look. He hadn’t put up much of a fight. We’ve had cows go down before and they usually thrash about. Investigator hadn’t thrashed about. We went through the possibilities.

Why did he die?

Had he starved? No, he wasn’t looking poorly with his huge gird sticking up from the ground. That couldn’t be it.

Had he been overworked? We are short one bull. You normally have about 1 bull to 30-40 cows. We had two bulls with about 130 cows. But if he had been overworked you would think he would have been looking poorly. That couldn’t be it.

Had he eaten something poisonous? We don’t know of any poisonous feed on our property and he didn’t seem to have gone through a struggle. He had basically just dropped dead. But I guess it’s possible.

Had he been bitten by a snake? The snakes are mean this time of year. This thought freaked me out a bit. If a snake bite can drop a beast this size, what could it do to me? (I’ve been looking out so carefully since then.) I guess a snake bite is possible. But why did it have to bite our bull!

Well I guess we will never know for sure. But it was a very sad day.

An Aside

While Investigator was down on the ground I was able to inspect him closely – more closely than you ever could if he was on his feet. I was intrigued to notice that he had a couple of nipples at the top of his scrotum. Apparently this is normal. I guess guys have nipples that don’t serve any specific purpose, but I hadn’t considered bulls had them as well. They were funny looking things. They didn’t really look like they belonged.

You learn something new everyday on the farm.

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