“The best laid plan o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley” and so it was to be with us when we set out to bring the herd home for the winter.
The cows have been able to stay out for a few weeks longer than last year, but the time had come to bring them inside.
Not only were they starting to paddle up the field, but there was no goodness left in the grass and they might as well be fed silage in a ring feeder in the foldyard as out in the field.
So with the prospect of cover, silage on demand and the chance of a date with Mr Bull anytime soon, you would have thought the cows would have belted home.
Not so. Looking back we think we know what the problem was, but at the time, the idea of a funnel of gates and an electric fence up to the field gate appeared foolproof.
But not to the cows. They have seen the gates before, they know what an electric fence is, and they suddenly decided they didn’t fancy the sight of either of them.
You can so easily be lulled into a false sense of security. Last year the cows were hanging round the field gate for days.
Placards were held in hooves and loudspeakers mooed out a parody of George Orwell’s Animal Farm - “Four legs wet, Dry legs good”.
John succumbed to the pressure. Mini Heston bales created a barrier across the farm entrance so that the cows would run straight into the collecting area of the foldyard. Land Rover and tractors plugged any gaps. Gates were shut.
A hospitality tent erected. Not really but you get the idea.
What sensible cow wouldn’t want to forsake a cold muddy field for a well strawed warm foldyard. Our cows that’s who.
One look at the electric fence and chicane of gates and they turned tail, knocked down the electric fence and took off into the nether regions of the roadside field.
John had previously asked his brother Geoff to come along and lend a hand with what should have been a simple procedure.
My job was to stand in the field gate until the cows were ready to cross the lane and if possible warn any oncoming cars that unless they either stopped or got a move on, they were in danger of being squashed flat by a stampede.
The possibility that I might be the flattened object did not seem to worry John. He and Geoff were at the back of the herd. I was in the flattening line.
But there was no danger of that. The cows clearly had no intention of giving up and coming home without a fight.
Or at the very least a dozen runs round the field with a pair of increasingly exasperated farmers.
In the end the last batch were run into the corrall and trailered home.
Their fields are empty, the foldyard is full. Winter has begun.