Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals



Sophia Loren and Billy Connelly

Posted in: Di's diary1 Comment

Nina is the Sofia Loren of cows – a leggy Italian full of grace, sophistication and charm. Hamish is Billy Connelly – a hairy Scot with a wicked sense of humour. While they certainly appear to be the odd couple, the get along famously and have done so for the past nine years. In fact their bond is so close I suspect that when one dies, the other will probably follow soon after.

Undoubtedly Nina is THE BOSS. All she has to do is give Hamish one of her withering, death stares to bring him into line whenever he is exhibiting particularly loutish behaviour (much like many married couples I know). But occasionally if the mood takes her she will join in and let her inner child (or calf) run free. But these times are rare and she prefers to display a measure of decorum in everything she does. She really is an exquisite beauty with her black rimmed eyes and nose and pure white coat. She stands an impressive 5 foot 6 inches at the shoulder, quite dwarfing poor Hamish both physically and psychologically. She is a fussy eater, rejecting anything that could be labelled ‘scraps’  and sometimes even hay if it is not up to scratch.

My beautiful Nina

My beautiful Nina

Hamish is rogue with rangy, red, dreadlocks and a fearsome set of horns. He is small and sure footed and rather fancies himself as a wild bull which alas, he is not. But this doesn’t stop him from tossing his head and pawing at the ground if he feels as if he needs to bolster his image occasionally. I am sometimes relieved that Hamish is a steer because he would certainly have trouble reaching Nina to mate her and I don’t think it would do much for his ego.

So they co-exist happily without any complications and I don’t have to worry about extra mouths to feed, although I think a Hamish/ Nina baby would be interesting to say the least.  Chianinas were bred in Italy as a beef and draft animal for hauling heavy loads. They are gentle giants – much like draft horses. However as a mother they can be absolutely fearsome if they feel their baby is being threatened, their mothering instinct is so strong. I find it amazing that people think that farm animals are quite happy to relinquish to babies to us for whatever reason we see fit.  In truth they are not, they fret, they grieve but they just have no say.

After so many years at our place, Nina and Hamish are old hands at most things and they know the drill when they have to be moved to another paddock. Sometimes the move can be quite complicated. If they are moving from one end of the property to the other it can involve moving out of their paddock up the lane way, through another paddock, up a laneway (and turning either right or left) and then into the destination paddock. What I find especially interesting is that they will turn either right or left at the laneway, depending on which paddock I have decided to put them in. I have seen this happen time and time again and the only explanation that I can give is that they are able to read my mind. Please, before you dismiss this statement as the ravings of a person who spends too much time alone, listen to my explanation.

Hamish - the rogue

Hamish - the rogue

Some people believe that animals can in fact, read our minds. Not in the traditional sense of words and phrases but PICTURES. They believe that we naturally form pictures in our mind, which our brain then interprets. This is generally an unconscious reflex but animals are able to receive this picture. When moving the cows, I subconsciously visualise their destination. It may only be for a fraction of a second but this is enough time for the cows to receive it and they react accordingly. Also remember that these cows are ten years old. We have spent more time together than most cow’s live in their lifetime. They don’t have to worry about money, children’s lunches or whether there are enough hours in the day to achieve the impossible list of tasks before them. They simply observe… each other, the seasons and …me. To be perfectly honest if,  after ten years if they did know which way to turn at the laneway I would think there was something seriously wrong with our relationship that we had never developed “that bond”.

I think my experience with cows, like many animals, simply allows me to accept many of the things they do as unremarkable, whereas normal ‘lay people’ would be simply astounded. Sadly most people never get the opportunity to be astounded by cows or any of the other animals they eat.

 I have loved cows for many, many years. Even when I was involved with them on a commercial level, I loved them. I think that is probably one of the reasons why I could not continue in that vein. During the course of my agricultural degree I worked on a number of stud cattle farms and even won the State Championships for under 25’s in Beef Cattle Judging at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and then came third in the Australian Championships in 1986. I had several offers from some big studs to join their ranks but that same year saw me undergo a massive change on a personal, spiritual and emotional level. I left behind who I was and I changed into the person I am today. I changed my major from Animal Production to Conservation and added an extra year to my degree as I had to go back and take different subjects. I never regretted this move and was grateful that I was able to still finish what I had started given the monumental change in my direction.

My cows are a constant reminder to me that they, like every living thing are worthy of respect and gentleness and kindness. They have different and unique personalities. They enjoy life and they enjoy the company of others including myself. They are gentle beings and they feel fear just as we do. They are not components on a factory line nor are they empty meat clad vessels as we are led to believe.

 I’m sure many people in the local area think I am crazy for keeping these animals who give me ‘no return’ and cost a lot to keep. In saying this I am reminded of a conversation I had only yesterday with an elderly farmer at the local markets. He was telling me about his experience keeping pigs. He said that they quickly worked out that electric fences shorted out when a branch fell on them. So they would simply rip a branch off a tree, carry it to the fence in their mouth and lay it on top, then step through. He said that it had been a few years since he had the pigs but he still had his old sow who was now simply a pet. He told me that people often ask him “why don’t you put a bullet in her head” to which he replies “Well she’s not hurting anyone is she?”

Animals don’t have to create a profit or return to be valuable. Their existence alone, their magic and the lessons I learn from them, is value enough for me.

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  1. Katrina Love said on 27/11/2011 at 11:59 am

    Wow… what a beautiful post/entry. Yes, I love cows/bulls/steers/cattle/oxen – all bovine Earthlings and long to live with many of them one day. I can’t comprehend how anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of one, could ever eat them again… though I think that goes for all non-human animals (for me anyway).

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