Animal Antics

Animal Antics

A farmer client told me this tale of one of his cows. One morning, sitting at breakfast, their peace was shattered by the bawling of a cow outside their window.  When they went out they found a heifer from a group of in-calvers two or three fields away, and she was obviously telling them something.  She was freshly calved, but there was no sign of any calf.  To get there she must have opened at least two gates, but she had been an orphan calf, brought up on the bottle and wise in the ways of people.  As soon as she saw them she started to back away, still bawling, and then turned to head back the way she had came, yet looking back every so often to make sure they were following.  So they did.  They followed her back to the field she had been grazing.  Once there she led them to a corner where the land dropped away and was filled with brambles, and of course in there was her newborn calf.  Naturally they rescued it and mother and calf were reunited.  Obviously very few cows would have done this, but she had grown up regarding human beings as the providers of everything she needed in life.

Another farmer was spreading chicken manure purchased from one of those vast industrial chicken farms.  As he happened to look back to ensure the spread was even, he swore he could see something moving.  He stopped and got out and went back to look.  He found a newly hatched chick, a late arrival, and brought it back to his cab and put it into a cardboard box.  Every farm tractor cab has plenty of stray corn seed and she stayed there contentedly pecking until the end of the day.  After some period of being spoiled in the farm kitchen, she was introduced to the farmer’s small flock of egg-layers.  Surprisingly they accepted her and she lived a contented life with them and in the passage of time produced eggs of her own.

If you watch a cat jumping down from a high place, it will usually first place one foot over the edge ready for the spring.  More than once this caused trouble in my own household if the high place is the top of the freezer, for over that edge are the sensitive control buttons.  A client told me a variation on this theme.  Her cat was in the habit of sunning itself on a flat roof which it reached via the bathroom window and the toilet cistern.  One day, as she sat on the throne, back to the open window, her cat came back in.  It’s normal route being blocked, it had to divert to the side and looking down for a foothold spotted the flush lever.  His subsequent leap from this secondary step activated the flush and my client received an unexpected shower.

I must tell you this anecdote about my own family.  Two of my great-grand-children were visiting the other two.  The host mother, desperate to find something for them to do, said, “Why don’t you go and feed the orphan lamb?” So off they went, a full bottle ready, with mother watching from the kitchen window.  Four children, one girl and three boys, aged 2-5.  Guess who was in charge; well she was the eldest.  Just imagine the noise, but the lamb didn’t care as long as it was getting it’s milk.  It was showing appreciation by furiously wagging its tail, as lambs do.  Suddenly its tail flew off.  Now this is a natural consequence of the rubber ring method of docking.  You know that, and I know that, but they didn’t know that!  There was a sudden silence, and a few surreptitious glances over their shoulders.  On brave soul even picked the withered tail up and tried to fit it back on.  Eventually, after meaningful looks at each other, they returned to tell a mother who was trying to keep a straight face about it.  – Ken

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Ken Watson's career as a vet started many moons ago, after he'd attended Royal Veterinary College at Camden Town. Ken came to work at Sidmouth in 1953 at Steele & Wardrop (now Ikin & Oxenham). Subsequently Ken set up his own practice at Plymouth in 1961 before retiring in 1992. His pieces graphically map out the changes that have taken place in the veterinary business over the years and also allow great insight into human behaviour.