Denis Lehane: Big bellies from the drink are a bad sign

Today, I feel I must talk about a drink problem that could well prove to be my downfall.

It’s been going on now for quite a while, and I believe you should know the full story.

It all started about three months ago, when I had the misfortune to purchase a few calves of the Jersey persuasion.

They were cheap little fellows, and as I hauled them home, I thought I had hit the jackpot.

Little did I know that a drink problem was lurking on the horizon.

Anyhow, I set the calves up in luxury and style. I gave them a house with the freshest of straw to lie on and, in the corner, the freshest of hay to chew on. And of course a good supply of milk replacer was never far away.

So, weeks went by, and their Jersey bellies grew fine and big, all from the height of good living.

Now, there comes a time in every calf’s life when the milk replacer is set aside, and a much cheaper food substitute is introduced, namely calf ration. This usually occurs when a calf is a month old.

Well, for me, it was then that my drinking trouble began. You see, my six Jersey bulls didn’t want to be parted from their beloved milk replacer, they had developed a right strong fondness for the drink. A fondness like you wouldn’t believe. So, being the soft-hearted fool that I am, I carried on mixing the stuff. The good times continued for my calves.

Then when the Jersey calves were let out to grass, the days being cold and the odd one being extremely wet, I kept up the practice of giving them the odd sup if one came galloping to the gate. They were strong enough at this stage, but I found it impossible to ignore the big-bellied Jersey and he bawling for the want of a drop.

But the Lord save us all, they are now on the farm three months, and the big bellies are still galloping for the gate when they spot me. I have never seen the likes of the cheap Jersey bull for sharpness of eye and quickness of gallop. He’s like an old boozer at closing time, demanding more, when clearly he has had enough.

And ‘tis no good telling him to conduct himself. The Jersey is oblivious to criticism.

He will eat his ration, of course. But it’s only in the same way that you or I might tuck into a bag of bacon fries. The ration is merely eaten for soakage. The milk is still his God.

And what makes the milk replacer all the sweeter this year is a hand whisk. A fellow in the business of promoting milk replacer gave me one a few months back, and it was the worst thing I ever took hold of.

You see, with the whisk you can whip the milk replacer into a right frothy concoction. By the time the replacer is ready for the calves, it’s so creamy you’d be half tempted to drink it yourself. So ‘tis no wonder they my half dozen Jerseys are gone loopy for the stuff.

But sadly, ‘tis the expensive habit the calves have developed. With milk replacer stretching me back 44 a bag, it would have been far cheaper if I myself had taken up with drink, or indeed gone off with a few women.

If my calves won’t break their drinking habit soon, I fear it could well be the breaking of me.


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