4 August 2022

The admin of cows

I got a message from a friend the other day:
“Hey James! Skye and Jura are so cute, but why are there cows in your garden?”

It’s a fair question. In fact, when I tell people that we’re a flower business I often get asked – how come you’ve got animals then? Are they for dinner?
Well the first thing worth saying is that our family don’t eat meat or dairy, so they aren’t here for food! Like most stuff here, it all comes back to soil. Many of you will know that the evolutionary landscape of Britain (and most places) involved big groups of wandering herbivores, grazing an area down then moving on to the next place in a nomadic lifestyle. This is the world our soil, plants and microbiology are evolved for. Replicating this environment and the eating, pooing and trampling involved, however superficially, is a good move if you’re trying to encourage healthy soil to grow in and a healthy ecosystem in which to live. A key part of this replication is diversity. Diversity of the kinds of things the animals eat, and diversity of their waste and the way it fertilises the soil. That means lots of different species. We’re lucky enough here to manage more land than our animals could ever make a dent in, so we can move them from area to area depending on where we’d like to grow next. They trample and fertilise that area, priming it for our seedlings, before moving on to our larger fields to ramble about as they see fit.

But why are they in the garden?
Cows come with admin. The main element of this is TB testing. For most cattle this is done by corralling them through a metal channel before restraining them in a crush (metal headlock) while the vet gives them an injection. Most cattle are shy and do not like this. I have seen cows weighing well over half a tonne smash through / over / round these restraints and a frightened cow is very, very scary if you’re a human in their proximity. We have no facilities nor any desire to test in this way and we do not have any intention of getting them, so ours need to be tamer than tame. This means getting used to being handled, brushed and even scratched on the neck without it provoking a reaction. That’s why these guys are hand-fed at the moment by various members of the team / family on a daily basis, and also why they are around for our family pizza evenings.

Our animals are here for the long haul, just like the family dog. They’ll have names, distinctive personalities, a key function on the farm and a really great life. With any luck the ones we have now will become the senior members of a growing group of happy misfits that gets weirder and more wonderful over the years. In the meantime, they give great hugs.

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