Thursday, August 19, 2010

Babysitting a Herd

While our friends are vacationing in Maine this week, my boyfriend and I have been babysitting their herd of 13 Highland cattle--keeping the pasture spring running; refilling the water troughs; hauling hay; and making sure all 12 cows (and one giant, black bull) are still securely in the field and not traipsing along the road or feasting in the neighbor's apple orchard.

My knowledge of livestock is limited, to say the least, but one doesn't have to be a farmer to appreciate the simple pleasure of standing in a field at sunset while animals gather and sigh and munch with unadulterated appreciation for hay you've wrestled over to their favorite dining spot.

Having cute babies around doesn't hurt either. This fuzzy gray calf wasn't ready for hay last week, but last night I watched him carefully pick up a strand or two and ruminate a while.

According to Storey's Illustrated Guide to Sheep, Goats, Cattle and Pigs, the Highland is a very old breed of cattle; some historians consider it to be the oldest and purest British breed. Developed on the rugged, treeless mountains of the Scottish Highlands, the breed is known for its hardiness, thriftiness, and of course its beautiful curly locks, a heavy hair coat that helps protect it from both the elements and insects. As a result of this long, warm coat, Highlands put on less fat then other breeds, making the meat they're raised for extremely lean.

As a vegetarian, I guess I'd make a very impractical livestock farmer. Getting to babysit a herd, on the other hand, gives me a little glimpse of the romance involved in living closer to the land.

The Pasture
I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan't be gone long. You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan't be gone long. You come too.

— Robert Frost

— Melanie Jolicoeur, Associate Director of Marketing

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