NEWS - December 2011
A TRIBUTE TO BUTTERCUP 2.
This is a story about two cows. Bluebell the cow was sent to us 16 years ago, a part bred Limousin, a French breed. She was rounded up with other cattle ready to be sent for slaughter. She was saved at the last minute by someone who had fallen for her soft and gentle face, someone who had very little money but a lot of compassion and who managed to bully friends and neighbours into lending enough cash to save Bluebell from going on her last journey, the journey of no return.
Bluebell arrived at our sanctuary in Bromsgrove in early spring. She walked slowly down the ramp of the lorry and looked at her welcoming committee, myself and John Harris. John was our shearer and our volunteer cattle man. She looked as though she approved, her head went down and she began to graze on our lovely, lush, meadow grass.
Her coat was dull and dusty, her ribs were visible and her prominent hip bones looked as though they might soon push their way out of her skin. She ate and ate, occasionally looking up with what looked like a very contented expression.
She began to fill her bony frame, her faded, dusty coat began to gleam silver and chocolate, she slowly became a very handsome cow. One day John announced that she was in calf, about seven months gone, he thought. I scoffed. No dealer would send an in-calf cow to slaughter, it didn’t make sense. Later John told me that she would calve that weekend. By then I half believed him, she was looking very rotund and dozy. He marched in early one morning, beaming. “We’ve got a big heifer calf”. I went to see her. It was a beautiful autumn morning, the sun was just up. In the middle of the meadow stood a very beautiful golden calf. Her mother lay in the grass next to her chewing the cud. Apart from a little bit of help from midwife John, all had gone exactly as nature intended, as the books say.
We named the calf Buttercup 2, Goldenbell didn’t sound right.
When she was just over 12 months old Buttercup 2 and her mother were moved to our new home at Manor Orchard Farm. We had 16 cattle by then, plus four cattle who were already living at Manor Orchard. Two Aberdeen Angus cows and their two male calves, Angus and Bovril. Buttercup 2 had friends. She grew, and grew, and grew, not just up but longways. She grew horns, short, curved and pointed. She also grew attitude, due we think to her French parentage. As an adult she looked part Simmental. That must have been from her father, a continental breed not known to have a friendly temperament. And with her mother having French blood. ??????
Her behaviour in the early years didn’t give us any particular cause for concern. She was always the playful one. When they were fed she would toss hay all over her back then run off bucking and kicking. She threatened to assault the Land Rover when someone drove in to the field to take feed or dump something. In play, we thought. She developed a habit of staring at you, long and hard. It was impossible to know what was going on in her head. One day the cattle were rounded up to be put through the cattle crush to enable us to dose them with a wormer, something they were used too. All went well until it was Buttercup 2’s turn. She resisted very forcefully, as only a one ton plus horned beast could. Eventually, after much arm waving and Anglo Saxon expletives Buttercup 2 charged into the crush. And just kept going. We all stood and watched in wonder as she trundled across the field taking the crush with her. Someone came to life and ran after her. He managed to overtake her and released the catch at the front of the crush. She charged off across the field like a golden bullet, we chose not to try it again.
The following autumn the cattle were brought up into the yard. They were going to be transported to another farm where they could spend the winter indoors. We didn’t have barn space for all of them.
They were quietly herded into the brick stables and loading began. The cattle began to walk up the ramp and into the lorry when suddenly there was a loud explosion. Pieces of wall and dust flew through the air and in the centre of all this flying debris was a golden airborne heifer. She landed on the ramp then very quickly changed direction and flew over the side. Unfortunately there was a cattle gate on that side to guide the cattle safely up the ramp, held in place by Marie. Buttercup 2 hit the top of the gate and Marie disappeared from view. The gate was damaged beyond repair, Marie was luckier. She emerged from under the ramp, white faced, covered with an assortment of muck.
One day, the following autumn, we began to bring the cattle up into the yard to send them on their way again for the winter. Not knowing what sort of long term memory cattle possess we all fervently hoped that Buttercup 2 would have forgotten her previous antics. As they approached the top of the drive, which is bordered by houses, Buttercup 2 suddenly broke rank, turned sharp left and launched herself into a garden, not bothering to clear the fence. She took most of it with her. She turned left again and continued on her journey through the next seven gardens taking everything before her, benches, barbecues; she was like Boudicca on a mission. She finished up, looking very triumphant, on the public footpath. All thoughts of ever sending the cattle away again finished that day.
Over the years she managed to break the rails on a cattle proof corral, she bent more cattle gates, charged a visitor with malicious intent, and gave me the vapours every time we planned to do anything with the cattle.
My one big concern was how we would handle things when her elderly mother became ill, or died. Since her birth they hadn’t been separated, they always grazed close together and sat close together to chew the cud. Previous experience has shown that when one of the herd is ill or dies, the other cattle, their family, become extremely agitated and distressed. If Mum died or had to be put down in the field the chances of getting close to the body were virtually nil. We knew that Buttercup 2 would charge to protect her mother.
She has solved the problem for us. Although behaving normally she began to rapidly lose weight. She didn’t appear to be in any pain or discomfort but the rapid weight loss was worrying. Our brave, (and foolhardy) Vet was sent for and with the minimum of restraint, one tractor, one gate and one four by four vehicle, Josie not only managed to take a blood sample, (without losing any of hers) but she managed to examine inside her mouth and nostrils for possible diagnostic clues. Dave and Louise stroked her face while she still gave the Buttercup 2 stare. She seemed not ill, but mellow.
Two days later she was dead. We had to know what had killed such a large, healthy powerful beast in such a short time. A post mortem was essential; could we have done anything, had we missed something?
Cancer had killed her, a huge, rugby ball sized tumour was quickly found with others becoming visible, but we didn’t need to know any more. Such was her strength she had carried this huge invasion of her body with no external sign until the very end.
She looked so beautiful in death. For the first time since she’d been born we were able to get so close to her, to really stroke her head and her wickedly curved horns, to touch her beautiful pale golden body. She looked so composed and so much at peace. There will never be another one like her.