Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The running of the bulls Steve style, Part II

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In honour of Steve Wyn-Harris retiring his weekly From the Ridge column after decades wielding the pen, Farmers Weekly dips into the archives for another taste of ag New Zealand’s favourite scribe.
‘Besides, there is nothing more relaxing than a gentle stock drive, writes Steve Wyn-Harris.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Read Part I here

It was a balmy still day in May when I set off to view 70 rising yearling bulls that my long-term stock agent PJ had organised with another of his clients.

I knew Andrew the vendor well and was sure that the bulls quoted would be fine so didn’t need to see them as usually I just buy on specification, but as they were just 12km down the road I thought I’d save a few dollars by droving them home.

Leaving Hinerangi Road, where we live, I headed down Woburn Road, where our other property is, and turned at the crossroads up Ngahape Road to Andrew’s farm.

The bulls looked good and as we were weighing them on the farm, I took the opportunity to quarantine drench and give them a six-in-one clostridia vaccine at the same time.

As we finished my part-time but excellent shepherd Jane arrived from tennis coaching. She was prepared to drive in front with her hazard lights flashing but said she didn’t want to take all day doing it.

I pointed out that it was warm so we couldn’t push them too hard.

The stock agent and farmer ribbed me about being miserable and not getting a truck but I replied I’d rather have the $800 in my pocket and besides there is nothing more relaxing than a gentle stock drive.

We got them out onto the road and they were off. I didn’t need the dog, so she sat on the back of the ute as the bulls trotted along the road.

We rounded the first corner and there on the left was a large paddock with some very big two-year-old bulls. I sensed trouble.

Sure enough, the big bulls came thundering over to inspect this incursion into their territory. I was expecting one of them to leap the fence but they didn’t.

A few of mine crossed the water table and walked beside the big fellows’ fence.

Then without any reason or sense, one of them did an Eliza McCartney vault over the fence.

Except he didn’t quite make it, and ended up with his hind leg caught between the top two wires.

This wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t started to bellow every second and a half. 

Judging by the anguish and strength of the bellow, this electric fence was going a lot better than any of mine ever had. I could hear the crack of the shock as he was perfectly earthed on the fence.

He wasn’t going to last long so I leapt out of the ute, sprinted to the fence and hurdled it in a most impressive fashion.

(Hurdling, high- and long-jumping had been about the only things I’d been much good at in school and they have been useful skills in a farming career. I was still high-jumping conventional fences in my late forties wearing gumboots but desisted when I misjudged finally and my pants caught on the barb wire, bringing me to a graceless and painful stop.)

As I got to the foolish beast I picked up a fortuitous stick and held the outrigger down off his belly. Not only did these people have an impressive voltage but their outrigger wire was strained tighter than most of my fences so I wasn’t able to get it down to the ground and stand on my stick to free my hands.

The big bulls gathered around me and the stupid bull, and were very interested in the proceedings.

Every now and then my strength would falter or the bull would shift and he’d get another decent whack.

Jane couldn’t see me as she had rounded a corner. My cell phone was on the seat of the ute. The dog watched from the back of the ute in puzzlement and did nothing about some of the bulls that turned around and headed back in the direction we’d come.

I was starting to get hot, and tiring of holding this bloody wire down as hard as I could.

I was there for a very long seven or eight minutes and couldn’t believe how what had been a busy road just before was now deserted.

Finally, a car came and despite my obvious predicament the woman just looked at me and drove on.

Then my stick broke in two, the bull got a couple of satisfactory whacks and bellowed with gusto while I got my now shortened stick back on the wire. Now I was at risk of getting shocks myself given the proximity of my hands to the wire.

I’d just paid $800 for this bloody beast and having owned it for a mere 15 minutes was determined to keep it alive.

He looked at me and I looked at him as we were in close proximity. As in the past I wondered if animals had any sense of regret.

Then I got a heck of a shock, yelled and let the stick go. This startled the beast so that he finally pulled his leg out and took off, pursued by a dozen large bulls intent on having their wicked way with him.

It was at this stage that the young woman farmer turned up on her bike and I asked her if she would be so kind as to bring the bulls over to the road gate so I could cut mine out.

I tested her fence and it was an impressive 10,000 volts.

The animal didn’t show any signs of his ordeal so the dog and I went back and collected up the runaways and caught up to the rest of the mob and an oblivious Jane.

The rest of the drove went per plan.

Originally published in November 2016

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