Being an animal at Halton Farms gets you surprisingly high up the pecking order and being a cow gets you even higher. Signs around the farm remind you how important the stock are and why they need to be respected. But in a corner of the Dry Cows shed on the top yard there’s a space, where should you ever be reborn as a bovine, you definitely need to head. It’s where Barbara, Flirty Moo, Myrtle and Desmond hang out. No, they’re not a washed up 60s tribute band, they are Halton Farms’ most prized herd (well just for Kaz really, Tom isn’t fussed). Let me tell you about the Fab Four…
Barbara – it’s her birthday this month, 11th Feb to be precise. She’ll be 14 – which is pretty impressive for a cow. She’s the oldest cow on farm and she’s sassy with it. She’s got a bit of Norwegian Red (! I KNOW I’VE CHANGED!) in her I think which gives her lovely markings. Either luckily or not for Barbs, her branding on her bottom is 69, which is Kaz’s favourite number. She’s a bit of a legend, but unlike some of the other legends here she doesn’t really like people, just tolerates them, which makes her even cooler I think. In terms of as a worker for the farm she’s definitely earned her right to see out her days in style with a soft straw bed and lots of silage.
Myrtle – you might look at Myrtle and stare… she’s a special cow for lots of reasons. When she was born she had bad legs, she couldn’t stand. But Karen has a motto; “Where there is a will, there’s a way”. Myrtle had the will… Kaz found the way. She’s nearly seven and despite her dodgy legs Myrtle is loving life. She’s actually quite hilarious when they’re turned out, she uses her posture to ‘escape’ under the electric fences to the longer grass. She somehow manages to escort everyone else, and when it’s time to herd them up she runs like the wind.
Flirty Moo – I 100% think she is Kaz’s favourite, and if I’m honest I have a huge affinity for Flirty, that’s because she’s huge… I mean HUGE. Her backbone is far higher than the other cows (as a lanky human, I already love her for this). She is cheeky as they come, last summer she gave us the run around – quite literally, she chased me through a field. When you call her name… she comes, like a dog. But poor old Flirty isn’t having much luck in the romantic field, if you know what I mean. Aside from sending her and a bull away for a little bit of “special time” she may just have earned herself a spot in the petting zoo here for life.
Desmond – the luckiest little bullock alive! I think the story goes that Desmond died… and was brought back to life by Gracey (don’t panic, I don’t think the kiss of life was administered). I might be wrong, but I think Desmond may have spent a night on the heated floor in the conservatory. But however the story goes, Desmond is loving life now. Like his predecessor Twisty the Bull, Desmond just lives the life of Riley with the other ladies. I’m not sure in bull terms he’s much use, sooooo he’s just kind of there.
To be clear, farming is an industry, it’s a business that has to operate within tough parameters and keep going when budgets are tight. There are some that wouldn’t give the four animals listed above a second chance (or fourth or fifth in Flirty’s case!!!), and I’m not judging here. But what I will say is that it’s a credit to Kaz and Tom that they never give up on anything or anyone (!). It stretches beyond the cows, there’s currently a feral Shetland pony and sheep hanging out in the paddock by the garden. Gypsy belongs to Vix, she won’t come near anyone, but unbeknown to Vix (until she reads this) we’re giving her a lovely bran and sugar beet mash every night and fresh hay. She’s actually started whinnying when I go past the gate. Little Belle, the latest addition to the pack, needed a home and she certainly wasn’t turned away. Then I guess there’s me… technically a waif and stray! As long as you do your bit, Kaz and Tom will take a chance on you. If you’re useless you’re bedding down with the Fab Four, which is from where I write this now… only joking!
I’m sure the Fab Four will become the Super six at some point, Toms’ all for me setting up a sponsorship scheme on social media (feel free to leave me a comment below if you think that’s a good idea!!!)). When new calves are born they come with their own characteristics. Don’t get me wrong not EVERY cow in the 500 strong herd has a name. But the people that work with them every day can tell them apart. Every member of staff has a favourite, Herds Manager Simon loves Midnight. Grace has more pets than Kaz… in fact she rescued her own bull George, he lives in a field next door. Around the breakfast table someone will remark “oh that Monty cross with the smudge of black on it’s face gave 12 litres again this morning” and Grace will say “Oh yeah 7118?” Her knowledge of the cows is second to none. Softpants is probably one of the most popular, out of the 500 cows she’s the one that wins over people’s hearts. She’s friendly, staff share titbits of food with her, and “she’s a bloody good milker”. When I arrived last March her granddaughter 9356 was born… aka Woody. YES I finally got my own cow. She’s a cutie too, all brown. Woody is currently at the heifer rearing unit down the road, but will be back here soon. There’s no way she’ll remember me… but I’ll persist, I’m nothing if not persistent. In the same batch I named Florence 9394, she’s adorable, but despite frequent attempts to get her to come to her name, she never did. Grace says she’s a bit sullen… I can’t half pick ’em.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably driven past a field of cows before and thought – ah they look all nice and black and white, but that’s it. Or poured milk into your cuppa and never thought about where it comes from. I see it differently now, Kaz has taught me to see cows in a field and view how healthy and happy they are. I’m really bloody grateful for the milk I drink because I know how much effort (and the early start) it takes to get it from cow to cup. There’s another thing too – I’ll never drink semi skimmed milk again – it’s disrespectful to Softpants!