Tag Archives: cows

Number 428

On my first married Easter on the farm, I helped deliver calf number 428. It was chaotic. I was only in the yard to remind my newly married spouse that time was ticking and that we had to be driving to my parent’s house in Cork. I wouldn’t ask it now. Come on. But remember, I was new to this and he was still trying to break me in.

So I arrived in the farmyard in my flowery wellies trying to move him on when I heard a lot of mooing; three cows were calving. Himself was helping two cows out in the calving house, one of whom was having difficulty calving (the vet would have to be called) and another who needed some assistance. One nervous heifer (first time mother let’s say) was nervously backing out of a paddock not knowing what was happening to her (in labour). To ease her worry, I, of all people, stepped in, she who had never seen a cow calf before, to help calm the lady down. I shu-shu-shushed her, cajoled her to calm down with my ‘there-theres’ until eventually she settled herself down in a feeding passage (portion in front of the main sheds where silage is placed for the cows to eat) to calf. Not the perfect location let’s say.

When the vet arrived for the cow in the shed, the scene was chaotic, with the two in the shed in trouble, one in the feeding passage in labour, not to mention the new wife in flowery wellies practically singing to the calving heifer. I remember the poor vet asking Dan bewildered if ‘all was alright?’ not quite sure of the scene he had come upon. To be honest, my lady would have calved away by herself but being enthusiastic and fully sure that this new husband of mine could not manage without his new Jane Eyre, I stood behind the cow as she calved. He had given a few instructions. When the crew beans (calf’s hooves) appear and I was sure the calf was coming out the right way, I could help ease the calf out with the cow’s breath. I felt it; and if truth be told, it helped me when it came to my turn in the labour ward. With each exhalation, she pushed her calf further along it’s journey out. I would wait for her to exhale and then pull on the crew beans to help ease her burden. With a breath, a nose appeared, and she’d breathe again; a nose. Eyes, closed. Ears. Shoulders and then slide, the release into the world. She delivered calf number 428.

She was the first little calf I ever helped to deliver. There was so many that Spring and in my quest to impress himself, I spent a lot of time in those days, feeding calves, preparing bedding, cajoling newborns to drink their milk. I remember 428 as a healthy calf. In the years that followed I continued to know her as she was a bit of a pet. They normally don’t but she was one of those who would come over to you for a bit of a rub. If I was hanging out the washing and the cows were grazing in the field behind the house, she would always come over to me. It’s as if she knew.

So Thursday, I got the text. He was selling cows and would I get the cards ready (each cow had a passport that goes with them when they go for sale at the mart)? Her number appeared. There in the list of numbers was number 428. Honestly, the same day was crazy busy. It didn’t have a lot of time to register with me. There was Christmas tree to sort, kids stuff to attend to, I had to milk the cows (me, yes!) so I put it to the back of my mind. Before I knew it, she had left the yard. I can only say that she lived well here. Knowing him, she had always been treated well, ate in fine pasture, sauntered into milk each day for us. But it doesn’t make it easy when a cow leaves the farm. The difference is now though is that I’m not that girl in flowery wellies ‘playing at farming’ anymore. I’m all grown up. Farming is our family business and is our life here. Just like my hands that are no longer soft, I know that we give our animals a good life in return for their produce and then when lameness or old age threatens them, when they don’t go in calf or when their milk supply goes down, it’s their time to leave the herd. No matter what their number.

It’s hard. I’m sad both for 428 and for the girl in flowery wellies who watched her coming into the world. When I finish this post, the thought will be put to bed as I get on with the next chore of the evening. You know, if you’ve read along this while (and I thank you), then you’ll know that I love farming but it really can be a very hard life.

Number 428.


The shed is empty in July. The cattle are dotted in fields around the house. The cows are in the High Field. The heifers in Sallies for a while. The calves to the West of the Sheds.

Each field has it’s history. A name recalling a particular story in the life of the land. Ardoughtar is the King of all fields, reseeded in the past five years it is the driest and most abundant. It was the site of the original farmhouse, on the ‘mountain’ and enjoys majestic status. Cattle rarely graze there and their visitation to Ardoughtar indicate a bad year. Not enough grass, ‘we’ll have to drive them to Ardoughtar.’ It normally serves along with Sallies as fields for silage grass.

Then, there’s Sallies. It was named, from what I can gather, after a lady who used to live there named Sally, funnily enough. In my imagination, I see her as an old woman with a stool out the back garden taking in the most beautiful view on the farm. She might have just been going about her business, but this is my story afterall. Sallies field is the one we walk to most days. It is approximately a quarter of a mile from our gate and I have watched my boys go from buggy to to walking to running on that road and it will always be precious to me.

Next over is the Mash, or marsh to you and me. It’s a good lump of land but wet enough, marshy. Prone to reeds, it has a river (a very small stream but there’s no telling them) running along it’s border. It is most definitely the next for reseeding, she sighs.

There’s the High Field which borders the milking parlour. The field West of Houlihans, our neighbour, the field West of the Sheds (there seems to be only one direction here) and the Pump Field (they definitely ran out of steam in the naming department).

A field I hold dear is the field behind our house, funnily unnamed. When cows graze there, I meet them as I hang out my washing to the calming sound of their chewing. The odd pet cow will come over to suss out the farmer’s wife and for the pat on the nose. Beautiful animals that they are. I love that field. The boys sometimes roam there and I can watch them from my window. We know where the rabbits live in that field and where the blackberries are most plenty come September. Still, it is nameless.

How do I get a name to stick? How does a nickname come about? Slowly, it’s becoming the Field around the House but that’s not romantic enough for the farmer’s wife. She’s high maintenance you know. The name comes to stick organically in the life of a farm, from the mouths of it’s owners rushing around getting work done, planning for it, putting cows grazing in it. And yet, it’s the Field around the HouseHearthill, Home.