I can’t remember how or when I found Jim Webster. The dry humour of his regular blogs makes my day every Monday, when I catch up with fellow authors. He has great insight to how animals behave, in a human sort-of way, and I hope you will appreciate this little rambling.
It’s when you deal with dogs, cattle, and sheep at the same time that you
realise that, to be honest, they’re not all singing from the same hymn
To give an example, because of the grass situation we had a couple of dairy
heifers in the same field as a lot of sheep. The heifers needed some
supplementary feed, but at that stage of the year, the sheep didn’t. So I
had to go into the field, accompanied by Sal our Border Collie, and feed the
cattle but not the sheep.
Now you might wonder how easy this was to do. If I walk through the sheep
accompanied by Sal, the sheep gather in a group some distance away and watch
me with hawk-like intensity. This they’re quite happy to do until I leave
the field and then they get back on with their own lives.
But then on one occasion, one of the sheep noticed I was carrying a red
plastic bucket. These red buckets are what I use to carry feed in. Suddenly
that sheep in the huddle suddenly bleated and set off towards me. Within
seconds the rest of them started bleating and in spite of Sal being there, I
was swamped by the mob.
Yet, if I carry an empty red plastic bucket over one shoulder, it obviously
isn’t a bucket and the sheep leave me alone.
With the two dairy heifers, they tend to ignore overt signals such as
buckets and the like. If I appear, they immediately converge on me and check
me out. To them, I am the source of food, not the bucket. The bucket is
merely the thing I sometimes carry food in. Thus to the cattle, it is my
presence that produces the reaction.
So to feed cattle but not the sheep I merely have to walk through the field
with the bucket held in my hand opposite the mob of sheep. The two cattle
will join me, and the sheep will ignore me because they don’t see a bucket.
Provided I can feed the cattle somewhere where the sheep don’t see them
eating, I can get away with it.
On another occasion we have a batch of fattening lambs being fed in some
troughs. We had to move the troughs out of the first field into the second,
and hide them behind a hedge, because some cattle in a field adjacent to the
first field would see me and climb over the hedge to get to the feed.
If I put the troughs where the cattle couldn’t see them, then they lost
interest. Me just looking at sheep wasn’t interesting enough to climb over a
hedge for. But unfortunately the sheep in the first field who could see the
troughs, would stand there by the fence between the two fields, bleating at
the troughs, rather than following me round through the gate.
I would then have to send Sal to collect them, because otherwise they’d just
stand there bleating until their smarter mates had finished and had wandered
off to do something more interesting.
Sal on the other hand tends to regard the two dairy heifers as potential
playmates. She doesn’t attempt to herd them, but just frolics around them
and sniffs their noses. She also leaves them to get on with eating because
she doesn’t want to be casually buffeted out of the way by a heifer’s nose
that is bigger than she is.
But with the sheep she’ll move up to a trough I’ve put feed in, and the
sheep will quietly evacuate it, heading for the next trough. Sal will then
pinch a few pieces of the cake before running back to join me.
Me? I’m Jim Webster, farmer, writer and whatever. I’ve done a couple of
collections of blog posts about farming, dogs, quadbikes, sheep and life.
One of my books is
I also write fantasy with four paperbacks out there. (they’re available as ebooks as well but for some weird reason Amazon has cut their paperback price down to their kindle price.) So the paperbacks are worth checking out in case Amazon is still doing strange things with pricing. One of them is
I’ve also got a lot of fantasy novellas as well, which are all ebooks, but you perhaps ought to wander across to my Amazon page to take a look