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.

>