Raiders of the Lost Silage: A Rat-Infested Farmyard Fiasco

Raiders of the Lost Silage: A Rat-Infested Farmyard Fiasco

The essence of winter feed for our dairy cows is silage, harvested during the supposedly glorious summer months—or the rare sunny days squeezed between endless UK rain showers. Each year, we mowed and collected an ungodly amount of this stuff. By my rough calculations, we must have gathered nearly 2,000 tonnes. My job was mowing, my uncle handled the forage harvester, my other two uncles managed the trailers, and my father was the maestro on the buckrake. Looking back, the whole operation was like a well-oiled, slightly chaotic machine.

Picture this: we’d start by setting up barriers at one end of the shed and then trailer after trailer would unload chopped grass. Once we reached the front of the shed, up went the front barriers. Meanwhile, our trusty sheepdog basked in the summer sunshine, completely indifferent to the commotion. My father would then climb onto the buckrake and start shoving the grass through the top door, building up a base until he could drive in and start compressing the silage, all without a roll bar since it wouldn’t fit under the shed’s roof. Back and forth he went at breakneck speed, declaring it "safe as houses."

Fast forward to winter. The cows are coming in, and it’s time to crack open the fermented silage. My father, our ever-relaxed sheepdog, and I gather the necessary tools and head to the barrier to start unbolting it. So far, so good. Just a typical winter day, with Dad and me doing the heavy lifting while the sheepdog supervises from his comfy spot.

Now, fermented silage is known to get very hot. As we pull back the first board, we hear a rustling behind it. Suddenly, a torrent of rats comes pouring out from the silage face, like something out of a horror movie.

In an instant, we all go from calm and collected to Olympic sprinters. Dad, the sheepdog, and I are running for our lives, with the rats hot on our heels. It was like a twisted version of the Pied Piper, only this time, we were leading the parade of rats. The three of us bolted towards the nearest wall and leapt onto it in unison. There we stood, panting and wide-eyed, as the rats dispersed into the fields as quickly as they had appeared.

To add to the hilarity, I could swear I heard “Yakety Sax” playing in the background as we sprinted away, Benny Hill style. The whole ordeal felt like it lasted forever, but in reality, it was just a few chaotic moments. As we caught our breath, Dad tried to regain his composure, but it was clear we’d just survived a ridiculous, rat-infested adventure.

Our sheepdog, always the picture of unflappable calm, just gave us a look that seemed to say, "Humans, honestly!" before settling back into his spot, unperturbed by the excitement.

Another day on the farm, another story to tell. Because, really, what’s farming without a little bit of chaos and a lot of laughs? If someone had filmed it, we could’ve called it "Raiders of the Lost Silage."

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