Grazing Rights by Bernie Jordan
The early summer day is bright and blue. In the distance you can hear the rhythmic sound of the milking parlour pump. Smell the trodden ground, the bruised grass, the fresh manure, the warming earth. The cows are in the yard for morning milking. They will be back this way soon.
Look across the field where tufts of grass remain ungrazed. These patches of uneaten grass surround each cow pat. An electric fence divides the field The grass is fresh, long and clean on one side, it is grazed, trampled and manured on the other. The fence needs moving back each day to let the cows graze a fresh strip of grass.
The gate opens with a clank. The herd hurries forward, jostling for position on the clean grass. Heads down they sniff, as if savouring a choice wine then set to, wrapping their tongues around the lush sward, pulling and chomping. What goes in must come out. Tails lift and fresh cow pats steam in the cool morning air. More inedible patches of grass are created.
A cow pat has an ecology of its own. Within minutes muck flies appear from nowhere. If you swipe the air above them, they rise in a fizzing frenzy. Gingery in colour, they zig zag the surface of the muck, laying eggs and turning it into a nursery for their lava. By the next day the cow pats have crusted over and within a couple of weeks they are covered in a prettily patterned orange mould.
Where cows stay inside all year there is no waste grass, there are no cow pats and no muck fly colonies. Efficient, mechanised and clinically clean some farms maximise profit, minimise cost and leave in me a sense of loss.