Updated: Dec 8, 2022
A Hairy Coo 'tail' of the first two weeks.
Before we get onto the interesting stuff about Highland cows; a quick introduction to me, farmer Fi. Along with my husband Will and brother James, we love and live for Dumble Farm and all it entails. We have worked with cows all our lives and still haven't tired of them, so we feel other people should also share the joy of having COWS AROUND!
With this in mind, after many months of preparation and even longer of panicking the date was set, the 25th November 2022. THE DAY WE OPENED TO THE PUBLIC!
This is the story of the first two weeks. What we have learnt, what has worried and delighted us, the parts we dare share with you.
I aim to give you an insight into the world of three farmers, who after years of only talking to cows, now have to speak to people. I will entertain you with ALL the things that go wrong, many things don't go to plan, it's a big part of farming. When working with animals a plan rarely lasts very long! Cows, and especially Highland cows are willful, very willful. To add to the challenge the 18 months old trekking cows are the human equivalent of teenagers, hormonal and unpredictable. We must be completely mad! Perhaps it's the reason we are the only farm offering Highland cow trekking.
YOU SAY HELLOO TO THE HAIRY MOOS!
Dumble Farm's first 'animal experience day', I don't think Will or I slept at all the previous night. For weeks we had made practiced the best ways of getting the various animals in the right place and at the right time for meeting people.
Would it work?
What would people think?
What would the cows think!
"Welcome to Dumble Farm" was my opening line. It had been decided that I was to greet guests whilst Will and James prepared the Highlands for grooming. I showed our first visitors into the school/party room and words came out of my mouth for five minutes. I have no idea what they were, I was too nervous, but I hoped they explained something about the farm and what we trying to achieve. To help, I offered them all a cup of mulled wine and wondered if they believed I knew anything about cows at all.
"The cows are ready!" time for stage two. How cute they looked tethered in a row, all the guests thought so too. Very soon everyone was holding a brush and grooming their very first Highland, so far so good! Then to the 8 months old calves and retired dairy cows that we name the 'Cuddle Cows'. Both sets were a bit wary of their first guests, but we could see the potential. On to the goats and alpacas. The Boer goats, Nibbles and Dodge are extremely lovable, completely reliable to eat anything they are offered and to fuss round everyone that visits them, no problem there! We had decided to put the alpacas into the goat enclosure to make them ready for visitors. This posed a slight problem as the goats are very dominant, this led to one of us having to try and distract them by running around with a bucket of food or dancing about on the goat bridge shouting 'Nibbles! Dodge!' in the hope that the alpacas could get a look in with the visitors and their treats.
Saying goodbye to our guests. The end of the first Dumble Farm animal experience day. After sending them all to the hand washing facilities and stressing the importance of good hygiene on the farm; the first guests appeared to be leaving happy, they smiled, took stickers and promised to leave good reviews. Will, James and I waved them off and said to each other "how do you think that went?". We felt on the whole okay, but there was no time to dwell, the next day was the big test, the first trekking day.
The first treks
Two excited couples.
Two suspicious Highlands.
Three extremely nervous farmers! The format was the same for the Highland trekking and the animal experience, aside from the 30 to 40-minute walk with the Highlands after grooming. We chose Martha and Moragatha; they were not on best behaviour! After what seemed to us like an extremely slow walk along the track to the pond, and despite months of practicing the route, Martha decided she no longer liked walking through trees, it felt like a nightmare! We encouraged her with treats and gentle words and finally made it to the riverbank where all seemed to fall back into place. Did the guests mind? Were we doomed to fail!
The First Dumble Farm Fortnight
Animal experiences are going wonderfully well! Several visits from younger children, who loved every minute, culminating with a party for an 11 year old, in which we also took the excitable goats for a walk. The calves are getting much more confident and so too are the Cuddle Cows. Highland cow experience with trekking has had a few hiccups, the Environment Agency deciding to dredge the watercourse alongside where we walk being one thing, what a muddy mess! Then there is the strange thing with cows when the sun starts to set, they all seem to have a bit of a mad half hour (of course in December the sun sets very early), this perhaps has been a factor in Martha's 'mooody' behaviour. So for now we bypass the trees and trek in a morning. But no one minded! The guests appeared to enjoy seeing the character of the cows, saying just a regimented walk wouldn't be so much fun. They expected mud, it's a farm in the winter. They liked to listen to the sound of the cows grazing and thought it funny when Sarrha just wanted to stop and be cuddled and given snacks for a while, it's all part of the Highland experience.
It's been a two-week learning curve for Dumble Farm and we will continue to learn as we progress. We set out to give people a hands-on and immersive experience with cows, we have tried our hardest and we are very grateful to all the people who have visited us in these early days and given wonderful reviews! We have sold many gift vouchers, so are expecting many booking after Christmas. In the spring Highland calves will be born, we will have a tractor and trailer ride, the wildlife and conservation project will be taking shape and there will be much more for visitors to see.
We have done it! We are excited about our plans for the future. Thank you so much for all the support!