French connection: Hard work keeping our scary vet sweet

Next week will mark the second anniversary of the hole being knocked through our outside wall to accommodate new French doors leading on to the patio. Two years later said doors, although long since arrived, are still to be fitted.


Cattle, kids, lambing, pets, homework, fencing or something else on the never-ending list always manages to take priority to work around the house. That TV show DIY SOS would have a field day here.


This month, when we are normally really busy with the tail-end of lambing, we seem to have been more hectic than ever.


Steve has been working with our JCB, returning favours by doing some landscaping for a friend. I managed to get roped in with helping at the school fete. And we are finally making some progress with the house. There is a door-frame now in the gaping hole and the doors, newly painted, are at least leaning against the wall next to the hole rather than lurking in the garage.


But the main extra work has been with our vets. Bluetongue vaccinations for serotype 1 and 8 are obligatory in France and so all breeding stock, cattle and sheep, including calves over two months old, have had to be jabbed – twice on two occasions, three weeks apart. France is keen to ensure that there is no unvaccinated stock to act as a reservoir for the disease and all animals must be fully inoculated before the end of April.


Apart from the work involved with getting all the stock together for these vaccination sessions, the arrival of our vet is always an unsettling experience. He is an excellent vet, yet I can’t help think his “bedside manner” is rather better with animals than humans.


He is a fairly rotund Belgian of the Hercule Poirot variety, who is capable of yelling if anything is not to his liking. Consequently, the prospect of containing over 100 cattle, normally divided into five groups, for him to vaccinate using basic handling facilities designed for full-grown cows rather than half-grown bullocks, was a slightly scary one.


Getting all the sheep in for the vet’s arrival is also big operation when they have lambs at foot, although this is when our neurotic Australian kelpie comes into her own.


Bella is only happy when she is working flat out. She is great with over-protective ewes by giving them a quick nip on the nose to get them moving, while is gentleness itself with lambs, steering them in the right direction by nudging them with her shoulders.


Eventually, all the animals were in place, as we nervously awaited his arrival. The car swept up the drive and when the door opened the practice’s new assistant clambered out.


Newly out of vet school, with a good grasp of English and a great sense of humour, he was an instant hit with us and the stock.


Built like a matador and able to vaccinate limousine bullocks as they charged past him with a quick flick of the wrist, he got the job done quickly and without fuss.


I should have asked him if he could hang French doors.