A few years ago we decided we would get some cattle. Wouldn’t it be lovely to eat our own beef? We met a guy in the local pub who had some cattle for sale. I know, we are slow learners, or maybe that’s just the way that things are done ‘round here. Come to think of it, that’s how we ended up with the ram that wasn’t. The difference this time is that my wife and I had kind of agreed that we would get cattle. She even came with me to look at them.
My job was to get the two cattle back to our place. I had my own trailer and a stock crate. The cattle were both quite small. I had no need for a stock truck. I could just transport them in my trailer for the 15 minute drive from Battersea to Greytown. What could go wrong?
Well, I picked them up okay from Battersea. The farmer had them in his yards. There was a heifer (girl cow) and a steer (castrated boy cow). We gave them a quick drench to get rid of any intestinal parasites and completed the paperwork for transfer of cattle. Then it was time to head home. The guy warned me that one of them “was a bit of a jumper” but told me how to deal with that.
Sure enough, I hadn’t even gotten out of his driveway when the heifer started looking like she was going to climb out of the trailer. Following his instructions I slammed on my brakes. The heifer fell back into the trailer and was suddenly more worried about staying upright than climbing out.
I got out of Battersea okay and on to the open road that connects Battersea with Greytown. The speed limit is 100 km/h. I was only doing around 70km/h (44mph). I kept on eye on the cows through my rear vision mirror. That heifer was up to something. I just knew it. She was sniffing around the back of the trailer. I wasn’t too worried at first. There was nothing back there. Except the latch pin that held the rear door of the trailer closed.
The next time I looked in my rear vision mirror I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Something I never want to see again. Flashes of hoofs and horns gradually retreating into the distance. The heifer had nudged the latch pin out with her nose. She had either jumped or fallen out and was rolling on the highway, slowly coming to a halt. I stopped the car and just sat there for a minute. The steer meanwhile jumped out to join his companion.
I will admit to a “Thelma and Louise” moment. That realisation that you have messed up real bad. The best thing to do might be just to keep driving. Anyway, that thought stayed with me for less than a second. I had to get the cows off the road. I needed to get them into some yards so I could get them back into the trailer.
The cows really decided for me. They shook themselves off and started trotting back along the grass verge toward the farm they had come from. Problem solved. I put my hazard lights on. Rolled the window down. Stuck my elbow out the window and tried to look nonchalant as I drove the wrong way along the highway, herding the cattle in front of me. I think I may have even waved merrily to a few other motorists.
The farmer fell about laughing as we limped back to his yards. Helped me load them back on to my trailer. The heifer had some grazes from the road so we sprayed them with iodine. I tied some netting over the top of the trailer and made sure the latch pin was tied into place. Then it was time to go. Again. The farmer followed me home in his truck. We unloaded the cows and sat with a beer while we watched them adjust to their new digs.
Cattle are amazingly resilient animals. Within minutes they were behaving like they had always been there. It took me much longer to get over the ordeal.