Our home is slap bang in the middle of beef farming pastures and lush grassland and that means cows everywhere. All day these creamy cows frolic and chew the cud, follow us inquisitively if we come into view and provide many humorous moments of cow interactions. They are docile, full of character and one of the two main breeds in our area, the other being the rich conker brown Limousines.
The Charolais are very maternal and calve easily. In March and April the fields are full of nurseries, mothers and calves enjoying the spring sunshine, the dandelion pastures and playing tag.
They grow quick and soon the “boys” are taken into separate fields to grow on for another 2 years for the beef market. We stopped eating beef three years ago but still have a tinge of hypocrisy by drinking milk. But then again we cannot save cows but not drinking milk or eating beef. They exist because we do so.
However, its very sad when the abattoir carrier arrives and two or three are chosen to go. It cannot be easy for Christian, but that’s his living and whilst the cows are here around us, they have a very good life. Some farms retain old cattle, they dose in the sun, wrinkly and wise looking, or better still spend all day sitting next to their hay bins without even needing to move far to chew.
On windy days calves chase each other in our bottom field, with anxious mothers calling them to stop misbehaving. Mr Bull oversees and makes it clear he rules. Almost two tonnes to Taurus with just a little electric wire keeps me at a distance.
The meat unfortunately sells to Italy. The French for all their cuisine, wont pay a decent price. As in England with fields full of sheep, we buy from New Zealand. Its is madness. With 34 breed cows, Christian has a full time job and he works hard in all weathers, not only looking after his extended cloven hoofed family, but maintaining the fields, ensuring the “herb” grows strong and full of nutrition.
Weekly rotation of cattle and annual rotation of herds to enable the pasture to recover gives rise to logistics and grumpy cows do not like moving. Mr Bull hates it most and with extreme polite tactics, head down in submission, Christian coaxes him into the new fields, or away from the girls.
Quiet in the country? You have to be joking! With the tractors daily chores, hay moving, cattle feeding and watering, the birds fighting on our roof for nest spaces, the salamanders sunbathing on the gravel and the chickens announcing egg laying, it is not quiet at all. The hounds at the farm bark in unison for up to half an hour sometimes, a monotonous baying in reediness for hunting – a passion of the French…growing to a crescendo as they realise soon they will be chasing rabbits and beaver.