VET’S DIARY: What’s worse than a prize bull stuck in a bog?

With fifty odd years’ association with our farming communities, I’ve heard countless tales of high jinks and incredible predicaments.

Earlier this summer I found myself directly involved in such an event. Hanbury, the bull, weighs well over a tonne but he’s a gentle giant. Not only that, on paper he’s one of the top one per cent of bulls in his breed for producing calves which are born easily.

Now, it doesn’t always follow that the theory of a bull’s genetic traits translates into real life, but in Hanbury’s case it does. So much so that even though the bull put his back out three years ago Robert, his owner, has given him special attention so that he can continue to mate him with the maiden heifers.

The highlight of every bull’s year is when the boss collects you from your paddock to introduce you to this year’s batch of cows, all with thoughts of romance on their mind.

For Hanbury this was always preceded by a visit from our resident veterinary acupuncturist, Deborah Bearder. She gives him his annual MOT and fine tunes his athletic potential with a collection of acupuncture needles carefully positioned.

With Deborah due the next morning, Hanbury was ambling along the old railway line and Robert following behind. Then, for reasons unknown, he took a detour down the embankment, and before Robert could halt his progress (not much can stop a 1200kg bull if his mind’s made up), he was half way up his belly in a bog.

Old Hanbury didn’t seem too concerned, but Robert was beside himself. He couldn’t see how he was ever going to recover his prize bull from the bog. A rescue team was recruited and the call was put out for the vet.

Now, our farming clients never fail to amaze me with their resourcefulness.

When I arrived the chain saw had cleared a route down the embankment with the cuttings deployed as a raft upon which Martin was dumping large piles of gravel.

This formed a ramp for the telescopic loader, up which we hoped Hanbury would return once he was free.

Doug, Robert and I got busy with shovels trying to find solid ground but the deeper we dug, the further the bull sank.

After a valiant attempt at threading a rope under the bull’s chest we realised we had to find another way to solve this. The bog was bottomless with no hope of reaching solid ground.

Then, in a flash of inspiration, one of us had a vision of what just might work. We would thread a thin rope through a length of plastic water pipe and push it into the quagmire and around the front and back legs furthest away from our ramp.

We would then use our telescopic loader to carefully and gently extract Hanbury from the ground and, in so doing, leave him lying on his side. We could then deploy the same threading technique to get rope and then straps under his belly and his chest before lifting him onto the ramp and back onto solid ground.

Fortified and with John giving words of encouragement from the side-lines, we set about putting the plan into action. We stopped to secure the bull to our loader with a stout halter – just as well as Hanbury was developing a taste for the juicy grass and seemed intent on progressing even further into the bog.

And just before the final lift, remembering his back injury, I gave him a wee dose of sedative in case he struggled as we lifted him out.

The plan had worked!