A Man’s World?


Jumping out of bed at 6am, I got the kids lunches’ ready, ran around a la crazy lady, blew kisses in their general direction and drove out the drive. Packed lunch and serious wellies in the boot, I was ready for a day at farming college. Or so I thought, for the only thing that wasn’t in the boot was the spare tyre that I had taken out at the weekend to make room for a very glamourous hatbox and a particularly classy umbrella for a cousin’s wedding (and a few other bits beside). So to my dismay when I heard the clang, clank, wop of the tyre bursting thirty minutes into my journey, I wasn’t feeling particularly clever or ready to become a farmer. No, my friends, I was feeling like a bit of a girl. A big girl foolish to be precise.

At this point, I must apologise to my fellow women, my sisters as it were for the following retelling of yesterday’s day at farming college. It was not my intention at the outset to let down the female population by being such a girl when faced with the mechanic and farming tasks that were put before me. But there was a wedding, a day’s teaching and three small boys to knock the masculine out of me before. And while I didn’t quite mention the lovely post wedding nails that for the first time in my life I hadn’t managed to chip, I put in an SOS or SON (save my nails)  phonecall into my farmer to come and a).bring the tyre and b). change said tyre. I know, girls, you’re rolling those eyes. For it was just as well, my hero came for not one person stopped to help out this damsel in distress as she was stood in a lonely country road staring confusedly at a wheel jack.

So now sweaty, tired and late, how I hate to be late, I arrived at farming college with dirty hands (I did try!) trying to catch up as the tutor explained the differences between the different breeds of bulls before us. Bull. Oh dear. They didn’t quite look the same but at this point, I don’t know if I quite cared enough. ‘Enough of this theory business, now to the heifers’ he said. ‘You’ll have to separate this giddy heifer,’ he said to me. To me! ‘No Sir, you don’t quite understand, normally himself does the separating (takes one animal out of the herd), I just stand back and stop them.’ I, the lady on the farm, normally stands in the gap as do a lot of farmer’s wife in the country, it’s a part of the job description. At this point may I also point out that there are a great number of very successful real farmers that are women but I am most certainly not one of them. Yet. No excuses taken, into the ring of heifers with me.

I didn’t quite ask the giddy heifer if she would like to leave the shed but I wasn’t far off. I could see from the corner of my eye that the tutor and fellow students were quite amused but was determined not to let myself down (I hear ya sista!). Eventually with some coaxing and polite tapping, I managed to get the unhappy girl out of the shed with two of her companions. The object of the task was to place them in an adjoining pen and I just about succeeded. A mucky job. But it didn’t stop there. For before I even got a whiff of a cup of coffee, I had to dose and inject a cow, take her temperature (I’ll leave that to your own imaginations) among other similarly unfamiliar tasks that would not generally take this farmer’s wife from her kitchen.

Having quickly eaten a lunch afterwards, we were back in the sheds estimating a cows weight, weighing her, separating calves for mart, assessing their price and for the piece de resistance dehorning some calves. The tagging (tagging calves’ ears with their number, think ear piercing) I just about managed. I thought that would be useful to help the farmer out next spring but the dehorning just about brought me down.  I must add by this stage in the day, the men in the group who had grown up dosing and dehorning animals were very encouraging and helped us girls (for luckily I wasn’t alone) all the way. Fit to drop later that afternoon our tutor informed us there was just one more task as he put us fixing up a temporary fence. Enough already. Was there no end to this day?

Look, most importantly, there are now a great many more tasks that I can help my farmer with. In fact my day led to a very animated conversation over dinner about cattle conditions and the price of poly heifers. Who knew?  I think, you know, that this industry could just about do with some female intuition and know-how just about now and why, there is always a bit of room for a touch more glamour.  N’est ce pas?



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