On the first day of August, I moved the herd south through Middle Marsh and onto the Wilden Lane fields: Top Field being the only compartment likely to remain reasonably dry throughout the year.
As soon as the cattle began grazing the Orchid Field, Iris gave birth to a calf.
Getting the marsh cattle into the soft and boggy Wilden Lane fields for long enough to graze them properly at the end of the growing season, has always been a problem. I started the “end of growing season” grazing a month earlier this year, with all the fields being dry after a long hot summer. The herd’s journey south takes them from the northern pastures, along the Tenant Farmer’s Field Corridor, skirting the Flooded Middle Wood Pasture, through the Rhombus and Orchid Fields, up into Top Field and down into Hilary Road Field. When the Wilden Lane fields have been properly grazed, I’ll move the cattle onto the Southern Entrance Section and then to the Southern Riverside Pasture. The herd will then deal with Middle Marsh: grazing the Rhombus Field, the Tenant Farmer’s Field Corridor, the Flooded Wood Pasture, Middle Wood, and maybe the Tenant Farmer’s Field, depending on the ground conditions. The water levels in the Wilden Lane fields might be too high for safe grazing by the end of September. The cattle have already made a big impact on the Orchid Field vegetation, and today I moved them from the Top Field down into Hilary Road Field.
Before letting the cattle loose in Hilary Road Field, I repaired stock fencing along the Flooded Wood boundary, at the southern end of the field. I struggled back through sprawling brambles that threatened to trip me at every step; wilting thistles showered me with fluffy seeds, and all manner of other tall interlocking vegetation made progress slow and difficult when carrying a heavy roll of barbed wire balanced on one shoulder and a bag of tools slung across the other. I stopped at the Top Field gate to get my breath, before whistling the herd. Five minutes after calling, Wayne and Waynetta ambled up to the gate. Ten minutes later the rest of the herd arrived from different directions, with much mooing and bellowing, to pass safely through the gate and into Hillary Road Field. The four calves were last through the gate: they are still a little afraid of pastures new and took their time going through. As the calves dithered, the adults rushed towards the Himalayan balsam. I think it was seeing their mothers disappear into the dense vegetation that gave the calves courage to plunge through the gate into the unknown reaches of Hillary Road Field.
Four cattle stood with their heads hanging over the south entrance gate, watching the traffic zooming by, when I drove past this evening: they had found a way out of Hillary Road Field! By the time I had turned my car around and parked in the south entrance layby, the cattle had moved – perhaps they had recognised my car and scarpered. I walked along the riverbank track and found them grazing close to Hillary Road Field gate. The gate was open just enough to let a single beast at the time squeeze through. I had obviously not checked the gate latch properly. I opened the gate, but try as I might the cattle would not re-enter Hilary Road Field. I bullied Wayne into the field hoping the others would get the message and follow. I tried to herd the cattle through the gate, but they ran rings round me. I’ll try again tomorrow.