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Adventures of Animal Handling: Episode 1

posted Mar 10, 2014, 11:14 PM by Unknown user

On a burning Wednesday afternoon a group of four students and Ms Roberts, all clad in long sleeved shirts and large straw hats, went down to the farm. It was the time of year when the school cattle had to be drenched.


Our first task was to direct the cows from the paddock at the back up to the top where the cattle crush was. Now, to the average person that sounds like a ridiculously easy task, but do not underestimate these cattle; they are smarter than they appear.


In order to medicate the cattle, we had to first bring them up to the crush, a device that would restrain them. Last week we had already learnt how to use the crush and so unlocking and opening the sliding doors was of no problem. The way you get a cow to move forward is to slowly move from behind, remembering to keep eye contact with the larger ones.


However, the first task was to bring the bull into the crush for drenching. Now a bull is, as many might think, quite a dangerous animal to work with (especially us who had just started!) it’s a very good thing that we had Ms Roberts who knew exactly how to deal with him. One important thing to remember with the bull is to never lose eye contact. Not to worry though, we were all too terrified from a myriad of extreme stories that had resulted in injury to look away! Luckily, this all went through without a hitch, and the bull was let into the crush with minimal effort. To drench cattle, we used an applicator and dosed the medication out according to their weight, pouring the chemical down their spine and stopping at their tailbone. After we finished with the bull, we let him back out into his own paddock with the help of a biscuit of hay and herded in the remaining cows and calves, moo-ving (geddit) them in from the back paddock.


During the drenching of the cows, Ms Roberts suggested that we all try milking a cow. So to practice for this task she told us to make a thumbs-down sign with the hand that we didn’t write with; creating a faux-teat. Next she told us to grip the base of our thumbs with the forefinger and thumb of our other hand, forming a ring around the faux-teat. Lastly, we had to wrap the other fingers around, one by one from top to bottom; this would cause the milk to be squeezed out of the teat. Now, “pretend-milking” a cow is all well and good, but it required a bit more finesse and co-ordination than we had anticipated. Some of our first attempts did not give a satisfactory stream of milk, or ended up squirting in a completely different direction, however in the end we all succeeded.


Bringing the cows back to their paddock was even easier; having now done it a few times (we did get one rogue cow who attempted to make a dash for freedom but was unfortunately thwarted by a fence). All in all, it was a successful few hours of work, (until it began pouring five hours later).


By Stephenie Cheung and Krithika Rajashekar of Year 12