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|COUPLE'S TRAILER VIGIL DEFENDS HERD OF BRITAIN'S SMALLEST CATTLE
Report and pictures by
Bill and Sue Osborne farm at Redhill farm, Lydney, near Gloucester. They have 34 pedigree Dexter cattle. During the Foot and Mouth crisis they were in the heart of the outbreak in the Forest of Dean.
According to Bill: "Ninety percent of the neighbouring farms lost stock but we were on higher ground a mile away and we were not prepared to lose our stock. We asked our vet to get vaccines for the stock, and after that was impossible, we spent seven weeks in isolation living with the animals."
The couple brought all their cattle into their barn, and left their home several miles away to take up residence in a tiny trailer, almost no bigger than a horsebox, parked outside the barn.
They moved into the tiny trailer on the 9 March. They contacted the local and national media and told them what they were doing and almost immediately they received publicity on ITV, The Times, The Telegraph, Points West, Gloucester Radio, The Western Daily Press and the local papers.
During their time keeping vigil in the trailer, none of the authorities ventured near them. The last outbreak in the Forest of Dean was 13 April, and on the 27 May, Bill and Sue ended their vigil. The good news is that their herd of Dexter cattle is still alive and well.
Bill Osborne was born on his grandfathers farm in Norfolk and worked on various sized farms during his school days. He was made redundant in 1998 from his position of herd manager to Lydney Parks park herd of Black and Whites when they amalgamated two herds and disposed of the older more experienced herdsman, leaving a younger man running a herd of 400.
The Dexter breed of cattle are the smallest of all British breeds and possibly the smallest breed of cattle worldwide. They are dual purpose, meaning that they are useful for both milk and beef production, which together with their size makes them ideal for the smallholder or anyone with a piece of grass land (i.e. orchard).
Originating from Ireland they are closely related to the Kerry breed but whilst the Kerry was kept on the richer lowlands and used primarily for milk production. The Dexters developed from cattle taken up to the high ground and mountains where grazing was sparse.
Sue told us: "We decided when Bill got made redundant that we could not possibly drink 'shop milk' so we wanted a house cow. I thought, one Dexter would be lonely, so how about two, ensuring a constant supply of milk. So came Topaz, who hates men, and Fizz, who is a sweetheart, then a bargain came - Molly - not a very sociable young lady who has taken up residence just outside Cheltenham, and Tourmaline (Millie to her friends) our wonder cow who has never come out of the show ring without a rosette. This is a long story ending with 34 Dexters!
"What is a Dexter? I'll try to answer: A Dexter is a way of life... your puppy, kitten, rabbit, hamster, is my Dexter. A small black (or red) bundle of mischief, when a calf. And when grown up, she or he is a friend, a confidante, and someone who gives love and trust unconditionally. Do you blame us for defending them with our lives against the terrorism from the 'powers that be.'"
Sue Osborne has given permission for parts of her diary to be reproduced here.
She told me that she could not have done so sooner, since the pain was too new. I have submitted Sue's original diary, written at the height of the crisis, without comment or interjection of any kind. The words are Sue's own, and I feel that her words, direct from the heart, are the words worth paying attention to. They are the genuine, heartfelt expression of a loving, caring human being in the UK farming community. Another of our rare and threatened species: Unique in the world.
If we wish to lose such people, all we need do is continue to purchase farm produce without checking where it comes from -- never mind if it comes from a country with few or non-existent welfare standards! Or support the unsustainable, industrialised, production-line approach to farming, of which the horrendous FMD slaughter policy was a symptom.
If, having read these words of Sue's, you find that you would like to help preserve this way of life, then I would ask that you pause; to consider what is important to you in life. Do you feel that saving a few pounds on your groceries justifies going out to the supermarket, and buying the cheapest cuts of meat, or cheapest vegetables? If so you may be unwittingly propping up the multi-national corporations, which are destroying our fragile earth by transporting produce back and forth all over the globe; using countless gallons of polluting fuel. Not to mention the all-powerful drug companies that have a vested interest in causing farmers everywhere to pump their livestock full of drugs for every conceivable eventuality. Buy local, and buy British, where you can.
Bill and Sue Osborne are stewards of our invaluable heritage in this beleaguered nation. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU, and the dictates of the World Trade Organisation, are breaking down the doors that protect our way of life. As they stand, axe poised, to smash what is left of the British farmers way of life, will you invite them in? Or will you instead say a firm NO THANK YOU, and support these wonderful people in their compassionate farming...
Bill and Sue's cattle are in radiant good health, are not fed on any artificial supplements, and are not given any routine medication. A possibility is that they resisted F&M due to their immunity, which in turn is due to the optimum nutrition bestowed by those who give them only the best.
The pictures presented here - and on our pictures page - help to convey the close bond which has been established between Bill and Sue and their animals, and of course likewise by many other farmers and smallholders throughout Britain. Bill and Sue are the lucky ones. Their herd is still alive. Truly, the needless slaughter policy was an assault on these people as much as it was an assault on their animals. It must never be allowed to happen again.