Heck

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It’s worth recording a small and irritating cock-up.

In speaning the calves, I moved them to the stackyard and began to ply them with hay and turnips. But the stackyard is small, and successive days of rain have made it a little mucky. In the midst of mud and sleet, it was obvious that some of the hay was being wasted on the ground, so I looked around for a heck to raise it off the muck and keep it clean. There are some good second-hand options to buy a suitable heck, but I held off and made do with an old sheep heck which has been lying around in my father’s yard for thirty years.

This sheep heck has weldmesh sides made up of three-inch rectangles. And perhaps it’s inevitable that the calves should have rubbed their heads on it, catching their ear tags as they did so. I found a tag on the mud the following morning, and it wasn’t hard to see where it had come from. One of the calves had a clump of scabby blood on his ear, and it became clear that he had torn it. Of course I felt wretched and resolved to do away with the sheep heck straight away, but it was a telling reminder that as I stretch my legs and focus on the grand complexities of working with cattle, it’s easy to overlook simple details of husbandry closer to home. Perhaps I should have foreseen this problem, but the crucial thing is that I’ve learnt my lesson.

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