I don’t think the cattle I’ve worked with over the years have ever been willing participants in an operation that forces them into a long race and then into the ultimate indignity of a 40cm probe with camera being inserted into their back ends. (For those who once watched All Creatures Great and Small, the probe was always a vet’s long arm).
The heifers on this day were maybe easier to handle because they were smaller and had not suffered such treatment before. But they all emitted voluminous streams of urine and faeces, to indicate their extreme nervousness, as we herded them up to the race. Strangely they seemed more settled once they were in the race and could see their colleagues moving along it and eventually exiting its confines.
Armed with a plastic paddle to prod the girls into place - the paddles are designed to emit much more noise than pain - my job was to extract about 10 cows or heifers from a yard of say 30, into three smaller pens and ideally reduce that number to four, closest to the start of the race. That was a number that gave me room to avoid aforesaid liquid projectiles and the odd kicking hoof. Strangely I nearly avoided all that as we jostled the best part of 200 cows and heifers up the race.
Towards the end of four hours I knew I was getting tired and attempted to be even more careful around vigorous back ends. However, I eventually copped a firmly planted hoof in my left calf and not much later, one cow strongly objected to my urging and simply bowled me over as she charged to the back of the yard.
The kick hardly hurt and being knocked over, thankfully, affected me little, apart from my clothes being considerably messier.
Shortly after the second incident, while questioning me about my health, the herd’s owner asked me if I had noticed that the cow that knocked me over, had also jumped over me.
On reflection, 'right here, right now', I'm most grateful for that, because if she hadn’t, it might have been more like a fairly gory moment from the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.