Tuesday, July 12, 2016

And Bailey

Another one, just to keep you from getting bored while I fish and swim. Also from 2012

Even though winter has been fairly benign so far, seed catalogs hold a great deal of charm. Thus there are piles of them at strategic locations around the house to fend off gloom and empower dreams of brighter seasons.

However no seed catalog could fuel the uproar that a livestock supply catalog in the hands of our male offspring generated the other day. And all he did was read aloud the names of some of the products offered for sale therein.

The first product mentioned was a sheep chair. My mind was instantly filled with the image of an older sheep, perhaps a bit grey around the temples, but quite distinguished, glasses perched on his narrow, patrician nose, frowning self-importantly while he perused the WSJ from the comfort of his recliner. He might be wearing slippers (wooly of course) and be smoking a polished cherry wood pipe in his tastefully decorated den. (I know you can see a sheep doing this too; they are such mockers.)

Then I envisioned a granny sheep, rocking comfortably back and forth in an old Boston rocker near the wood stove in the kitchen, while she knitted wooly mittens for the little lambs playing around her feet. They would be leaping and caprioling on and off a blue and pink rag rug, their little hooves thundering on the wide planks of the floor. I could see it clear as day.

However, reality was much more prosaic. (What a letdown.) The sheep chair in the catalog was just a little canvas sling thing used to confine sheep comfortably while their hooves are trimmed.

And then there was the lamb and goat chariot. Okay this one was easy. The only hard part was whether the goats would be harnessed to a little wagon and driven by lambs in Roman garb, or the other way around. Or maybe they rode together and had a pony to pull the chariot. It could possibly even have referred to a low budget remake of the 1959 classic, Ben Hur, sheep and goats being a bit cheaper than chariot horses.

Ah, but no, the lamb and goat chariot was “designed with the sheep showman in mind” (and not Charleton Heston either). It consists of a two-wheeled metal cart (hence the chariot part I guess) with places to halter either lambs or goats so they could all be trained to lead at the same time.

Having had occasion to attempt (and I use the latter term advisedly) to train sheep to follow along politely on a halter, I truly understand the need for a chariot. You would think upon observing a sheep, small compared to a cow, soft and wooly, not usually possessed of great big horns or a long tail to batter you with, plus a buttercups-wouldn’t-melt-in-its mouth-expression, that a sheep would be easy. Not so much. With a low center of gravity, sharp little hooves for extra traction, and a hair trigger panic button, sheep are tougher than they look. And when something trips that panic button, if they can’t go around, they will go over, under, and/or through anything that gets in their way. In retrospect I can see many uses for that “four head” chariot.

The catalog also features “Mother-Up” spray intended for grafting lambs, foals, calves and kids (the caprine kind). No twigs, tapes, or ties involved in this operation though, just something intended to convince reluctant mama animals to accept babies that aren’t necessarily their own.

A llama chute, but alas, no water park or slide, just a stall intended to facilitate clipping or medical work. Stone tattooers. Waterers, weaners and weather stations. Tweezers, twitches and six kinds of tape-duct, fencing, illuminator, measuring, umbilical and weighing….. (The scary part of that is that we have and use all but one of those here at Northview, and Alan uses the other one on his job in the city.)

The best item we found in the NASCO catalog was not a bit strange however, just wonderful. We use a brand of automatic water bowls made by the Humane Company for the cows’ comfort and entertainment. They are shiny robin’s egg blue things with yellow plastic paddles. Each one is suspended between a pair of cows, which, when thirsty, press the paddle down to run fresh water into the bowl, then drink their fill.

When they are finished drinking they let the paddle spring back up and the flow of water is shut off. (Except when springs break or dirt gets into the valve or the cows bang on the bowls hard enough to break them off the water line. Then we find a lovely flood the next time we go into the barn and emergency repairs and water removal occur.)

However some cows get bored, or even learn bad habits from other cows who got bored at some point. They take their nice fresh drink, then spend hours and hours and hours licking at the water in the bowl, flicking water out to splash on the floor. Determined cows can create near-floods and big messes that require big clean up.

Just such a cow is Bailey, number 155, who stands in my line and is otherwise a nice, unassuming cow, who doesn’t bother anything. However, all day long when she isn’t eating or sleeping or being milked she slaps water out of her bowl. Some days it is enough water to flow down two stalls to the walkway, down the walk way and into the gutter. It makes a slimy mess of any feed left in the manger too.

We have discussed putting an individual shut off on Bailey’s bowl and turning her toy off when we are not in the barn. We have never done so though because it seemed kind of mean and not fair to the cow who shares that bowl.

And there in the catalog was the perfect solution- a splash guard for a Humane water bowl, held on with a simple muffler clamp.


No comments: