April 2 2017
My day starts with a massive dose of home-grown adrenaline. Fear mounts as I cannot actually see our jet black in-calf dairy cow from the window. Since last checking her at 1am, she has moved and is out of sight. I drag on the jeans and climb through the window of the cabin and jump into the field. I find the cow lying down behind the hay feeder and busy calving. I dance around like a fool. The cow doesn’t quite look right. The calf is borne with a small but expert amount of help from me. Membranes away. Eyes blink……..the gasp of her first breath taken from the still cool morning air. The time is 5.45am. I am not happy with the look of the mother. I leave her for quietness sake. I return. She appears uncomfortable and can’t get up. I call Roger our herd expert. He agrees to pop in on his way to drill the last of the wheat. I start the pasteuriser and prepare for Sunday processing. Minutes later I am streaming through the lanes in 6th gear with the Citroen Relay at full throttle. I am on my way to collect the morning’s milk from Nunton Farm. The phone rings. It’s Roger. The cow has milk fever. I call our brilliant vet Nicki Bentley. She is immediately on it. She’ll be at the farm in 20 minutes. I draw 1000 litres of milk from Nunton and race back to Maple Field. Alison, wife of Roger, is already on site. As I drive into the yard I can see Nicki the vet on the brow of the field standing majestically over the stricken cow with her arm uplifted holding the bottled magnesium which is running into the veins of the cow to bring her round. Nicki looks like the Statue of Liberty in the early morning sun. I could be sailing up the Hudson River from the Nantucket Lightship. Alison gives me the thumbs up. The cow will live.
I am immediately demanded by the roaring processing machines that insist on someone’s undivided attention. They need help in the field to raise the cow onto her feet. Alison calls Zeb. I call Eileen who is on her way to Maple Field to help me with the milk processing shift. I ask her for help. Seven minutes later she hand-break turns into the yard and heads straight for the emergency. The Statue of Liberty is quietly giving instructions. Warm water……gloves…someone deal with the calf. The team move round the patient. I want to blub. This is small scale, small-holding food production at its best. Several people right amongst a life or death problem. People sensing urgency and applying all their skills. We hear Adele singing over the loudspeakers for all of us. The small-holding lets out a collective sob of utter relief. We all know a bit more about the eternal struggle for fresh food. As the team scrub down and chat we are collectively bonded by the miracle we have just witnessed.