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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Best taught by example

I walked over to the neighbouring farm to deliver a card, and to throw a couple of apples to the horses, Dusty and Jewel. 

The farmer was there scrubbing a couple of implements. Calving aids he called them. I didn’t ask any questions. Then he offered to show me the new-born calves, one of whom had only just popped out (or been dragged out perhaps...) an hour before. 

The Maternity unit was smelly and warm. Expectant cows congregated at the gates but right at the end lay the new mum and her new calf, not yet standing. The farmer had still to cut the umbilical cord, which he said he waited on until the cow was on her feet and taking an interest in the calf. At this stage the new mum just looked a bit shell-shocked and bemused, and the calf lay curled on the ground.

As we stood watching, a couple of heifers who were about to be first time mums gathered round the new calf curiously, sniffing, startling and jumping back. ‘This is how they learn,’ Peter explained. From each other.

We entered another barn, a sort of nursery unit with individual stalls occupied by a single cow and her newborn calf. One after the other. Beautiful. One of the mums was a bit anxious about our presence there and moved forward protectively. I wouldn’t wrestle with her, that’s for sure.

A tricky job being a farmer. Trickier than one might think, and requiring an awful lot of knowledge and experience, and just plain hard work. If mums of human babies think it’s tough, they should hear what a farmer does as his herd starts calving. Basically he just naps for 45 minutes through the night and then checks the ladies before resuming a short nap. For a few months. Year after year.

Community is obviously important for cows to learn how to mother their calves. (Perhaps we should consider that before first-time human mums get sent home the same day they give birth.) 

Community in faith is important too. Paul writes that older Christians should teach the younger ones. Some things are best taught by example.

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