Sunday morning and Brian is about to set out to do some fencing but there is a bull awaiting pick-up on a nearby property. “You don’t need me. You and Judy will be right” he says as he throws the strainers onto the ute and is gone.
“She’ll be right”. Why do I always fall for that line?
I jumped my 55kg into the faithful cattle truck and headed off to pick up 900kg of bull. Manfred is a ten-year-old angus and is our most reliable and our quietest bull. For the last two years he has taken a three month vacation from Rocky Springs and he spends this time with a harem of females on “Glen Orton”. Last year we had all sorts of problems getting him home because he was too wide for the Glen Orton yards and we actually had to dismantle the headbail to get him onto the truck.
In November Manfred squeezed himself through the Rocky Springs race, lumbered back onto the truck and bellowed happily when he saw his GO Girls. Now, with his holiday at an end, it was time for him to return home. Judy assured me the headbail was already dismantled and “we’d be right”.
The first thing I noticed when I alighted from the truck at Glen Orton was the humongous gut on Manfred. Instead of working it looked as though he had spent the last three months parked at the bar at the Wallaroo downing beers and eating meat pies. 900kg had turned into over a tonne. I coaxed him through the yards to the start of the race and that’s where the rot set in:
Fat bulls don’t fit up races!
Judy and I decided on the bribe option and tempted Manfred with some lucerne hay:
and although he made a grand effort to follow the hay up the race, he retreated and said “Look mate, it’s just not going to happen”.
“What if we try going in through the side gate?” Judy asked amidst giggles. Unorthodox, but OK, let’s try:
We got him looking at the loading ramp and yes, it was wide enough for him but the crafty old bloke was waiting for his bribe. I’m sure I rolled my eyes at him and Judy’s giggles were sounding a touch more nervous but we persevered. Then, and only because he is our quietest bull, I climbed into the loading ramp with a biscuit of hay and tempted him to follow (I’m pretty sure this isn’t in the Low Stress Stock Handling Manual). All Judy could say was “I wish I had a camera.”
He may be our quietest bull but he is still 1000kg of bovine muscle with the potential to move fast should the moment take him. So I had a safety plan: our truck has two pens and the gate between them opens outwards and hits against the side of the truck, forming a safe zone for handlers:
I had the gate set up so I could sprint in there should Manfred feel inclined to break out of a walk.
Bribery started to work and as the bull straightened up Judy closed the back gate on him and I bounded up and over the ramp. Manfred then loaded himself and I shut the door of the truck, yelled “Yes!” and fist pumped the air.
I met Brian on the road as I got home and he said “Just put Manfred down the race and I’ll deal with him later”.
I grinned. “Look mate, it’s just not going to happen. I’ll jump him off in the paddock”.
“He’ll be right”.