Silver and her calf

I have noticed that people buy my pies and ready-meals more readily when they know that my own home-grown beef is in the dish.

Sometimes people wonder how I can eat , or sell for food, Creatures I have known from birth. Sometimes I wonder this too, although I very much like a dish of well reared and well cooked beef.

I have just looked up in Genesis, God’s instructions to Adam and it says “I have given to you and the beasts and everything wherein there is life, green herbs for meat.” (I have edited those verses slightly but look them up yourself and tell me next Thursday in the High Street if you think I have misunderstood them.) No mention of carnivorism there. However, I am very certain that Levi, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Christ Himself, were not vegetarians, and of those five, only Levi and Christ were not professional livestock farmers. ( I am also certain that none of those five are dead, although I would not attribute that to their diet!)

I tried a vegetarian diet once, but after about six weeks, which coincided with haymaking, I felt too weak to throw a hay bale to the second layer of the trailer and had twenty acres of baled hay to clear and a wet forecast, so I decided that vegetarianism wasn’t for me. However, I do feel an almost unfathomable depth of respect for people like the Dalai Lama, for whom vegetarianism is essential, and who works a far longer day than I do!
Ironically perhaps, I was named after “Uncle Toby” in “Tristram Shandy,” who refused to hurt even a fly.

Anyway, today my favourite cow, whose name is “Silver,” had a dead calf. She has been a good friend to me for several years and did her best to be a good mother but the calf had some intestinal flaw which was not Silver’s fault. So I bought another calf from a friend to foster onto her. Poor Silver was not pleased. She was too genteel actually to kick it, but she showed it her hind feet at very close quarters several times which was quite scary enough.

I have seen this situation before and corny as it sounds, singing to the cow helps no end. She has her head in a bucket of barley while I croon into her ear and the calf sucks oblivious to both of us. By the time he* has had three or four feeds of her milk, he smells so much like her original calf that she will mother him quite happily. Possibly she also just wants me to stop making that noise in her ear!

The song I sing is my calf-fostering version of the Skye Boat Song. It has exactly the right rhythm to calm the cow and match the suckling motion of the calf, and it’s the only song of which I can remember all the words. It goes like this:

1st verse: “Sail, bonny boat, like a bird on the wing, over the sea to Skye…”
2nd verse: “Carry the boy who was born to be King, over the sea to Skye…”
3rd verse: “You’re an old bat and if you kick that calf, I’ll put you in a pie…”

Bless her heart, Silver has accepted her foster-calf and I expect to turn them out to their summer pasture together next week. I expect it was my singing that did it.

P.S. The foster-calf is a heifer, so I shall not have to agonise about selling her to you in a pie in a few years’ time, she will grow up to be a breeding member of our herd.

(*All calves are male until nature dictates otherwise, just as ships and bells are female. I do not know why.)

God bless all our work. And the flies.

Uncle Toby.

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