It may have taken several months but Fearghus (left) has finally learned some spatial awareness skills. That’s right, he has only just learned to put his head through the feeding barrier and I have the picture to prove it. Now, Renoir the bull (centre) and Dryope the matriarch (right) quickly learned this trick as soon as a bucket of nuts was placed on the opposite side of the barrier. Fearghus has a slight disadvantage in that the angle of his horns means he needs to turn his head a wee bit more but nothing that would make a circus act or the Guinness Book of World Records. Generally all our Shetland cows show awareness of working with their horns so no special feeders are required. Cue Fearghus. A muppet since birth when it took three men to teach him where his food came from after several desperate, unsuccessful hours of me trying (reflection showed I needed more brute force at the time). He has never shown the intelligence of his counterpart Fionghall but he has always managed. Until, that is, we got a locking feed barrier in the byre and his lack of awareness shone brightly.
So, as the top two of the hierarchy chomped through nuts, Fearghus would do two things. He would either become the dancing queen behind them and thus ensuring the remaining cows became his back up dancers. Or he took his cue from the comedian Michael MacIntyre and would constantly pace back and forth ensuring no other cow got a chance of getting to the barrier.
And no, I did not gently wisper sweet words to him to show him the way of turning his head. I used an energy bucket, nuts and mutterings. My delight at him eventually getting his head through was short lived. He had to get it back out before one of the other two finished and demanded his bucket (pecking order definently exists in cows as well as chickens and the cows can be ruthless if they want to be). Thankfully, he remembered the head shake, back and forth we went several times before I decided he could defend himself if need be.
Guess the next thing will be teaching him to sit and beg for his bucket…