Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary *H&H Plus*

  • The farming season is at full tilt with youngstock arriving, as Tessa Waugh enjoys a morning herding renegade calves and channelling her inner rejoneadora

    When we first moved here, I can remember telling a farming friend from Wiltshire about our new home. “It sometimes feels as if the world is happening elsewhere,” I said.

    “That’s probably true of farming everywhere,” he told me.

    And never more than now. With all hell letting loose around the world, it’s business as usual here on the farm. Calving has nearly finished and lambing is imminent. Everyone in sheep farming goes into lockdown at this time of year anyway, barely leaving home apart from the odd trip out to buy supplies.

    The horses have been enjoying some downtime since hunting finished, but this morning they also had some work to do. Our job – to get the cows and new calves off the hill in front of the house because it was time to de-horn the calves. This breed of cattle, Luing, are a quiet lot in the main, but anyone with experience of livestock will know that moving them with their young is a very different deal.

    We had Adam, Eildon and me on horses, Alec on his pony and Matthew on a quad bike with the feed, a 300-acre hill and a herd of mummies with their skittish young. What could possibly go wrong?

    “Someone’s going to lose their temper,” I thought ruefully as we set off up the rutted path to get around the back of the stragglers.

    Most of the cows turned pretty obligingly when they were faced with a big grey horse (Trigger) and a smaller bay one (Jim) bearing down on them, but one stood her ground.

    “We’ve got a tricky one here,” I said to Eildon, as we shushed her on in tandem and she eventually lumbered on her way with the odd wistful look over her shoulder.

    “Check there are no more calves in the whins,” called Adam as we formed a loose “C” around the remainders and walked them down to the bottom. Of course, it had all gone far too well. From the foot of the track, Matthew was coming towards us arms waving – we’d missed two calves and the reluctant cow was evidently one of their mums.

    Unfortunately, four people on horses are no match for two renegade calves on an open hill and it all went a bit Laurel and Hardy after that. One darted between Trigger’s legs and had to be lassoed with a hunting whip and manhandled down on foot. The other disappeared over the horizon, tail in the air. Meanwhile the main group got bored of waiting and drifted off elsewhere. It took another hour to complete the job and we were sweating like rejoneadores by the end. A great way to spend a morning all the same.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 April 2020