It’s been a busy time for us down on the Farm recently, as we attended the Mid-Somerset Show in Shepton Mallet, with some of our pedigree Dexter cattle. This has been the Farm’s ambition for a while now (and a personal dream of our animal care lead, Declan Winslade, for a long time). To say we were nervous in the run up to the show would be putting it mildly…
Farmer Dec had chosen the most suitable classes for our best animals, booked them in, devised a training plan. Everyone worked hard, every day, to get our girls used to the halter and then to walk nicely up and down the farmyard. We even gave them a bubble bath; they became the most pampered cows in Bristol! The team bonded over the common aim of preparing for the show, and the rest of the farm loved seeing the cows pass by on their regular walks.
With one final bubble bath and an all-important hoof shine, our girls were ready to go. Throughout the establishment of our little Dexter herd, we’ve been truly grateful to have the support of Barry Cambridge, a very experienced local farmer and showman, and he had kindly offered to transport our animals alongside his own in his lorry.
They set off on Saturday evening, so they would have time to settle into the showground overnight. It was quite an emotional moment watching the lorry drive away.
Dec went with the cows to make sure they were safe and settled, and spent a noisy night on the showground surrounded by mooing from all directions. He was up at dawn, preparing and giving those hooves one last shine.
Gradually, other staff arrived along with some of the people we support and their families who had come to help and cheer us on. Before we knew it, it was time for our first class – the big moment had arrived! We donned the white show coats, borrowed from Farmer Barry, attached our numbers, and off we went.
Our first class was Cow in Milk, which means a cow who has recently had a calf. We have two particularly beautiful mums at the moment, so we entered them both, along with their calves. Our experienced old girl, Princess, decided to test us and gave me a proper taste of cow handling, but everyone settled in the end and we felt great being in the ring.
Next up was Melissa, in the ring with Dec. They looked great walking together, but she was a little naughty for the judge – we’d forgotten all about training her to allow her udder to be closely inspected! She was placed fourth out of four, which was a little disappointing, but she did get a rosette, so we were happy to have something to bring home.
We didn’t know what was coming next though. Our final class was the pair, with Melissa again and Aoife, accompanied by her calf Aberfin.
This time it all started to feel right – the girls walked well and stood beautifully for the judge. We really enjoyed showing them and we knew they were a credit to everyone’s hard work. When we were called into the middle of the ring for the final judging we held our breath… and were stunned to be placed second! We were on top of the world and haven’t really come back down to earth yet.
The rest of the day passed in a blur of family, friends, and spectators all coming to visit the stall and the cows – who were relaxed and having a nap now that their work was done. Everyone took the opportunity to visit the rest of the show and see the other incredible animals that were there. It was great to just soak up the atmosphere and chat with people about the Farm and the work we do.
To be bringing rosettes back to proudly show everyone and be able to share the exciting news on social media, has been a joy. We have learnt so much and were humbled with the support, advice, and friendship we got from our fellow competitors. It was great to feel part of the farming community and our cows got lots of compliments from other farmers.
Our ultimate aim has always been for people we support to be in the ring alongside us, and now we know that is definitely something we can achieve. We want to show the world that people with learning disabilities belong and that with the right support, the sky is the limit!