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Showground success fulfils dreams

Lisa Allen, is the coordinator at our social enterprise, Elm Tree Farm, in Bristol. Just over a week ago, Lisa and the team fulfilled a long-held dream of entering an agricultural show with their cattle.

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 our ambition for a long time (and a personal dream for our animal care lead, Declan). To say we were nervous in the run up to the show, would be putting it mildly.

Bubble baths and hoof shines

Hoof shiningFarmer Dec, selected the most suitable classes for our best animals and devised a training plan. Everyone bonded over the common aim of preparing for the show, working hard, every day, to get our girls used to the halter and walking nicely up and down the farmyard.

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.

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 spent a noisy night on the showground surrounded by mooing. He was up at dawn, preparing the girls, and giving those hooves one last shine.

The big moment

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 made our way into the ring.

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. She settled in the end, and it felt amazing being in the ring.

Close inspection

Dec and Melissa in the ringNext 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 and Aoife, accompanied by her calf Aberfin.

Holding our breath

This time it 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 their work was done. We took the opportunity to visit the rest of the show and see the other incredible animals. It was great to just soak up the atmosphere and chat with people about the Farm and the work we do.

The sky is the limit

Proudly showing their rosettesIt has been a joy to bring rosettes back to proudly show everyone, and be able to share the exciting news on social media. We've learnt so much and were humbled by the support, advice, and friendship, we got from our fellow competitors. It was wonderful to feel part of the farming community and our cows got lots of compliments from other farmers.

Our ultimate aim has always been for the 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 in the mainstream and that with the right support, the sky is the limit!

Lisa Allen 
Farm Coordinator

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