John’s mechanical tone on the phone, robotically issuing numbers, dates, gender plus affirmative and negative responses, can only mean one thing.
He is talking to a disembodied answering machine known as the self service helpline at the British Cattle Movement Service to enter herd numbers for newly born calves. Or BCMooooooooooooS as we like to call it.
Over the last few days, we have been having quite a conversation with BCMS and for the record, I would like to state here that for a bureaucratic institution, the people we have dealt with have been friendly and helpful. What a lovely change.
It all started a year ago. A calf died at just a few weeks old and to comply with regulations, John sent the calf’s passport in to the BCMS. Then last week another calf, who we had been spending vast sums with the vet on, also died.
John checked its ear tag to identify the cattle passport number and looked in the files in order to return the document. It was not there. No sign of the missing passport.
Anxiously he rang the BCMS to report the death and admit he had lost the passport.
But when he gave them the calf’s individual herd number they replied that they already had the passport and that it had been sent back last year. ????????
Turned out that by the spookiest of coincidences and a dash of rural cock up we had sent back last year, the passport of the calf that died this week as they had been born at a similar time.
There, lurking in our filing cabinet, was the passport of last year’s calf. Bingo. Their numbers were very similar so that is where the mistake had occurred.
Fortunately BCMS have been very understanding and we have incurred no penalty.
But you never get off lightly with cattle. A calf born last night had not drunk by this morning and was bawling its head off in the yard.
The calf’s mum is one of our oldest cows and her bag was very full and too low for the calf to get under and have a drink.
“I’ll take some of the milk off,” said John “Give me a hand to get her into the crush as she is very protective of the calf and a bit bolshie.”
Opening the side door of the crush to get a hand in to draw some milk off for the calf and reduce the cow’s bag, the ungrateful cow lashed out sideways catching John on the side of his knee.
Cursing, he slammed the gate shut and tried to milk her from the back of the crush where she could not kick him. She promptly upended her tail and filled the bucket with a stream of muck,liberally covering John’s arm too.
It took several attempts to get enough milk to fill the bucket but tonight John has seen the calf under the cow and so all is well apart from his bruised knee and smelly set of overalls.