Wednesday 15 September 2010

Cattle and TB

The scrolling caption at the bottom of the television screen stated that 25000 cattle were slaughtered after contacting TB. This led Barry and me to ponder how they managed to communicate.

Did the head cow, the leader of the herd - there doesn't seem to be a bovine equivalent of bellwether - pick up the phone? Rather difficult for a hoofed animal, but they're cleverer than they look, those cows. Maybe she was an independently minded modern heifer, not allowing any glass ceiling to prevent her advancement, and texted Mr TB. Perchance she used email. Whatever the form of exchange, did she then regret it, fearing she may have sealed her fate and that of her friends and relations?

Ms Heifer to her compatriots: 'Sisters, I have this day spoken to Mr TB and if I may quote Mr Chamberlain, "I believe it is peace for our time ... peace with honour." We shall prevail.'

The cows ceased their cud chewing to moo loud and long at her encouraging words. When it became apparent that there would be no amity and that she and 24999 of her extended family were doomed she was deeply saddened. Hearing the piteous lowing of her companions she addressed them once more, her beautiful dark brown eyes shining with unshed tears.

Ms Heifer: 'My fellow cows, it is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you that Mr TB has reneged on his word and that consequently this herd is at immediate danger. You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win life has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful. I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage for the sakes of your relatives far away who have been spared this terrible burden. I beg you not to blame the badgers - they are innocent of any evil motive.'

Ms Heifer quietly lowered her head and pulled a mouthful of sweet grass and began to ruminate, physically and meditatively. Her peers followed her example, listening all the while for the rumble of cattle lorries.


  1. A prime example of more Poor Cows! :)

  2. Contacted TB.
    Poor sweeties.
    But it isn't their fault humans are becoming illiterate.

    Have you heard of the two men in the US who have formed the Typo Eradication Advancement League and are traveling across the US to promote their book "The Great Typo Hunt"? Check out

    HOWever, 'contacted' might not be a typo. It might be because your own Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says uses the word 'contact' on its website and the TV folks may have picked it up from there: "Cattle, which come into nose-to-nose contact with an infected animal, may breathe in the bacteria"!!

  3. Yes, contact makes sense in that context but not in the one that was scrolled! I shall look at the website of the typo hunters. Why didn't I think of that - it sounds like a job made for pedantic me!

  4. Maybe the cows should now contact a solicitor.
    Great story.

  5. This caught my attention because I 'contacted' TB from a herd of Jersey cows by drinking their milk straight from the farm in the days before tuberculin tested herds were mandatory. I have a six inch scar on my neck to prove it and had more than six months in the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London. I had my third birthday in the hospital.

  6. Chris - my sister had a similar scar on her neck after having a tubercular gland removed. She didn't have to stay in hospital for six months. What a nasty experience for you as a little tot, though.


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