Denis Lehane: Calves weaned but cats still guzzling

I must start by saying I’m not a cat lover. While hatred would be too strong a word, it’s really not far off the mark, writes Denis Lehane.

Calves and cats: rivals on the Lehane farm for the supply of tasty milk replacer.

From their sneaky attempts at tripping me up while I’m working in the farmyard, to the way they hop in through the open window of my jeep when the opportunity arises, they get on my nerves.

Unfortunately, I live in a house where the women, totalling six in number, all adore cats.

As a consequence, we have at least six and sometimes up to ten cats floating around the farm, all needing to be fed on a daily basis.

While I detest the domestic cat, I still understand their need to be fed.

So there has been, for many years, a never-ending supply of canned delights purchased specifically for the feline brigade.

From tasty chicken to the best of beef, all with jelly or gravy.

The cats on this farm have dined royally.

They are the bourgeoisie of the cat kingdom.

Their every whim looked after, their every call answered with compassion and food.

But that wasn’t enough.

During the past spring, as I struggled with the task of rearing calves, I seldom had the pleasure of feeding a calf without a cat stationed along side me, meandering between my feet, weaselling around my wellington boots, shoving himself in my path, hinting all the time that he too wouldn’t be adverse to a drop of milk replacer.

And being the greatest clown to ever set foot on a farm, I saw little harm in pouring out a sample of milk replacer into a bowl for the detestable little creatures.

For if there is one thing I detest more than a cat, it’s a hungry cat.

The Lehanes’ cats go through a bag of milk replacer per month.

And so began a ‘tradition’, as it has become known in this house, of me feeding milk replacer to the cats.

First, it was just the one cat, then three more joined the party, and now it can be any number up to eight or sometimes ten at one sitting.

All seeking milk replacer and all letting it be known if they don’t have the regular supply.

They still of course dine out on their canned delights.

It’s just nowadays they are partial to starting their day with milk replacer.

So, while the calves no longer get milk replacer, the chore still goes on for the cats.

The milk replacer is still being purchased, and not just any old milk replacer either, only the bag with extra protein which, I might add, costs about a fiver more than the normal bag.

“But they like the extra protein,” my missus will stress, if she sees them cocking their noses up at the standard bag, costing I might add, the bones of €50.

The cats are going through one bag of milk replacer a month, which if you need me to spell it out to you, equates to the rearing of 12 calves over the duration of a year.

Twelve calves!

Twelve calves that I could have on this farm right now for the price of the cats!

Is it any wonder then that I’m so perplexed this morning, and I after returning once again from the co-op with a bag of milk replacer in the back.

I have a herd of cats now guzzling my profits.

And while they say there is precious little to be made from calf rearing, I’m telling you, it’s a damn sight more profitable than maintaining an army of cats.


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