Thursday, December 6, 2007
three calves on a roll of a lifetime
I have mentioned earlier about the troubles I have had with trying to maintain a herd of milking cows. The main problem being the lack of food, namely grass in the environs of the farm and the unproductive labor being used to gather the grass from nearby fields, and transport them to the cattle shed.
Once we made the decision to drastically reduce the herd so we can at least find enough food for the remainder, I decided to move the three calves born in a short period since I returned, to my place in Plonnaruwa.
Permits are required to transport cattle in Sri Lanka. I first had to get a letter from the vet authenticating that they are my animals and then took it to the Gramasevaka who is the village authority responsible for any official duties pertaining to authenticating property and people so that passports, licenses and permits can be issued.
His letter is then given to the Divisional Secretariat, which in this case is Homagama to issue the formal transport permit. The permit mentions the age and significant markings of the animals. It further indicates the locations from where they are to be taken and to which location. The license plate of the vehicle is also indicated along with the permitted time of travel which in our case was between 6am and 6pm on Tuesday.
Once we returned from our weekly home delivery on Monday, the staff on the farm, prepared a makeshift pen on the flat bed of my pick up truck. Early in the morning they were able to coax these leery animals for their first and possibly only journey in a vehicle. Due to the nature of the cargo we had to go very slowly and made it in about 7 hours.
Not surprisingly, at almost every checkpoint, the police stopped us to check the papers. It is so funny that when it is obvious what cargo we are taking they check us, when we would be foolish to openly take cattle without a permit, and when vehicles go closed they don’t check when the likelihood of contraband is greater. My theory again about law enforcement. They enforced what is easy for them to do and they can justify to all what they did whether it is giving a speeding ticket for going one above the limit or checking a truck that openly is carrying nothing!! The police officers despite all the info being very clear in the permit nevertheless wanted to know from where and to where and whys and wherefores and that we should give more feed in the truck etc. These are people who know nothing about cattle transport and probably never had a cow telling us how we should treat the animals. It is also referred to as the typical mentality of the people who always offer advice on matters they know nothing about.
One observation I was quite incredulous of was that all through the journey, babies to old men turned round at our passing and in many cases got others to look at this sight of three animals on a pick up!!! It was quite an object of curiosity. I guess one does not see cattle transported like this as those are normally transported in closed vehicles where no one sees what is inside.
Needless to say many people were wondering if they were on their way to the abattoir. In this country where killing people is like a pastime, the thought that these animals may well be on death row provokes feelings of horror. Many people incorrectly must assume this automatically when they see animals in a vehicle as they do not rationalize that they maybe transported to a better place as in this case so their emaciated bellies can fill up with unlimited grass!!
The animals survived the journey without a hitch and were so delighted with their new surroundings. They jumped from the back of the truck, so we did not have to worry about how to get them down. They are now eating heartily like they have never eaten before and lazing in the shade of mango trees.
I will have to make an enclosure for them, and the staff have undertaken to take them down to the river daily so they will be in clover. Of course the intention is economic to be able to get as much or more milk from them here as I currently receive from a dozen head of cattle in Godagama.
The very happy trio, I should name them!