The grass is greener...

  • Posted on: 7 October 2021
  • By: MrWurster

Today is manure collection day. I go to a nearby horse farm and shovel about a cubic metre of manure into my trailer. Back home it gets composted, or spread out over our topsoil-less mining paddocks. Another 100 years and we'll have a rich pastureland.

I might not see the final result.

Driving out through the long narrow orchard paddock that connects us to the Great Alpine Road, I noticed the one apple tree in this paddock was damaged. I stopped and had a look more closely.

The damage had all the hallmarks of deer. Bark at chest height had been chewed off most branches. Although deer are a problem in our area, we have had very little get through the shooters to our property. In six years I have only seen deer twice, and never seen any sign of the tree damage I have seen at other olive orchards.

And looking at the soft ground all I could see were cattle hoof marks.

I opened up this orchard to the cattle last week. With all the rain we've had a surge of green growth, and the grass in this paddock was lush and thick. The cattle aren't really short of feed this time of year, but for a few different reasons its good to move them around and make sure they spread themselves across different turf.

I haven't had problems with them damaging olive trees before …other than the acceptable damage of doing the understory pruning for me. But another round of damage like that to that mature apple tree would kill it.

So I shut the gate and locked them out. They would have to make do with their home olive orchard paddock.

When I came back later in the day with the trailer-full the cows were blockading the shut gate. They've done it before, and have bluffed visitors into ringing me for help.

One strategy is to rush the gap as the gate is opened. I thwart that by using the opening gate to push them back to the left, and swinging the car right as I come in to push them back on that side. The tricky bit is getting back to close the gate after the car has gone through. Easy if there's two of you, but by yourself you have to be nimble!

All went well until I leapt out of the driver's seat and quickly stepped back to close the gate. The trailer! I had only rolled through the bare minimum, to keep as much machinery in the gateway. Too conservative…the trailer was 10 centimetres within the arc of the gate.

Nothing for it but to shoo them away a few extra metres, sprint back to the car, roll forward, sprint back and close the gate. Phew!

As I drove off they moved back and closed around the gate again. The next sucker wouldn't get off so easy…..