Portrait of  Bridgit Boty

Bridgit Boty

Boty Farms, Ashford


Farmer’s name Bridgit Boty
Age 76
Location Boty Farms, Ashford
Size 200 acres
Type Dairy

Interviewed by: Katy Sharpe
Filmed by: Joe Spence
Date: 29 July 2015


Katy: Could you just tell me about the farm, please?

Bridget: Well, my husband and his father bought this farm in 1961; it was 100 acres then with two cottages and the house, and it wasn’t very dear. And it was in terrible condition, the hedges came into the middle of fields, took us about 10 years to kind of get the fields as we wanted them. We married in the same year as he, he came in the February and we got married in the July, and I’d always worked with cows – so he married his cowman, so, I did all the, all the, c- I’ve done all the cows all my life, and I , I wouldn’t know…I was very bad farmer for quite a while, I’m getting better, by the time I’m about 150 I’ll know quite a lot, but, the cows, really have been my life, my father was a herdsman, very good one, and I learnt an awful lot from him, he didn’t die very rich, but he left me with a tremendous legacy, and my aim through life has been to be good to the cows, and they’ve been good to me, and very good. They’ve introduced me to some fantastic people. All my friends, are, are all in – well most of my friends – are in the cow world, and I can’t go on normal holidays with other people cause I don’t know what to talk about. We started to go pedigree in about 1976, and we’ve been pedigree ever since. I was lucky enough to have a free hand, to do all the buying of the foundation cows, and we never had very much money, so they didn’t cost an awful lot of money, but once you’re, you’re into cows you know that where you can buy them, bargain basement…, usually old cows, or cows with udders that are a bit suspect, and we’ve built up some very good families that way, and the fact we’re going out, you know, I, I’ve known each animal’s parents and their parents, right the way back, and you know their temperament, you know if they’re going to be good in general, and it– you’ve got to choose the right bulls to put on, but I’ve been very lucky in that respect with good friends giving me, advice and me telling them sometimes as well. I had 4 children, I think I had about 2 days off for each child. I was milking right up until the time I had it, and in 1980…no before that, my, my husband got injured, he had his foot kicked off, they pinned it back on but I had to do the milking from that moment onwards and I had at least one child after that and so my poor children have been dragged up with Mother outside, and I’m terribly proud of them, they don’t think I am, but I’m more proud of them than I am of the cows. And, it’s been quite hair-raising cause my husband was just slightly accident-prone, and when he eventually had an accident, to have his leg off, he kind of took a back-seat and it was bad enough, he was in intensive care quite a long time, my daughter and I were involved, we found him on the farm injured with his leg hanging off, and it took them a fortnight to have the leg off, which he got better then, he was, he certainly wasn’t better in that fortnight. And, he was very cheerful, but he’d been starved of oxygen, and he eventually got a bit of dementia. But, the same people have been here up until today, the lad that was my son’s best friend, we lost the son in an accident as well, he’s been with us, on and off for 37 years, and Fiona, she, she tried college, but came back to the farm after we lost the son, and we’re absolutely dedicated, all hours, never having time off, very, very few holidays, I do like, I’ve… used to travel quite a bit, looking at the sires over to America, France, Spain, and once again, had to be in with cows, looking at the breeding to see where we’re going to, and my husband used to come with me, he used to love holidays like that, but erm, my daughter’s been very hard pushed just recently because, although Phillip, a- the person we couldn’t have done without for the last 20 years actually, very, very faithful, gets up at 1 o clock to help us with the calving and this is what farming’s all about, it is…all to do with the, being around the cow – the cow in trouble, doesn’t matter what time it is, you’ve got to be there to help her out, and we’ve built up to 120 cows, fair lot of young stock which has helped us out this year because we’re not getting much money for the milk, so we sold, ooh about 30 head of cattle that hadn’t got to milking stage in the spring to fill up our silage pits so that we were going to have enough to look after the cows this winter. But with my daughter’s knees going wrong, we’ve decided to go out, and it’s a question of s- how we sell them, and the cows are going out as they calve, ev- about so many every month, so it means a lot of people work getting those ready, and they have to be sold in Cheshire. The trouble with Kent is there’s no market to sell any dairy farmer at all, and I hate the 7 hour drive they have up, because the odd one comes back to Kent, so they’ve had an up and a downer. The older cows I’ve managed to sell privately into Kent, I don’t mind what the price is, as long as they’re happy and this is, this is how…they’ve been friends to me anyhow…


B: But we were very lucky, we’ve had great farming friends around, they lend you tractors, they lend you combines, if …the, the old farmer that lived down the road, he didn’t used to combine on a Sunday because he was religious and he used- but he used to let us combine on a Sunday so we used to do our combining, and those kind of people are just…wonderful, to, to work alongside, and now his nephew is one of my best friends, he farms down below as well, and we mix and match, and the – all the farmer’s locally, they treat me as one of them which is lovely because early on, I was a, very much the only, only woman in, in farming, very much with my own, what I knew I wanted to do. And if you really want me to get on the subject, the bureaucrats in farming….I’ve had a fair few battles with them. [phone rings, not picked up]

B: And, in the end, we’ve probably, have got a level pegging, but I do think there’s an awful lot of suicides – and accidents – with rules that they bring in. And they haven’t a clue about, they haven’t done it themselves, and they bring in a good idea on paper, but when it comes to actually doing it… We have to ear-tag all the, all the cattle which in the dairy herd is not too bad, the cows are quiet, you don’t get broken arms, but in the beef area the cows go for you with their, with a young calf, and you’ve got to catch the calf before it runs away from it’s mum, very early. And that cow will kill somebody. And th- and there have been people killed and I think the fact that the rules are so rigid….it’s unnecessary because it, most of…well I’ve found most farmers straight, I don’t know about the modern ones, I, I don’t usually deal with the modern ones, and modern business that come into farming I certainly don’t trust a lot of them, but, so far, my heart and head have sorted them out fairly well. But you spend a lot of money, and there’s a lot of people that feed off farming, there’s a lot of people making a living out of out of farming in general, and some of them are very very good, and some of them are, not worth mentioning, so….

Katy: And…is the bureaucracy… is that one kind of quite major change you’ve seen happen since you started to now?

B: Oh, tremendous. For instance, when we had a cow that was ill, the local what we call knacker man – he used to sell dog-meat and things – came around, and shot her for us, took her, gave us money for her. When BSE came in, each cow now has a passport, which, that’s alright, I buy… I don’t, buy in very much, I sell quite a lot, they go with their passport, but the part- you have to ask for the passport, within 30 days. Now, there are certain times on the farm when you are so busy and I don’t get on the computer for at least a fortnight. Now if I’ve forgotten to register that calf it causes quite a bit of paperwork; normally, I suppose I’ve got a thing in my head that actually tells me that it’s getting there, but I can’t register it on computer after 14 days, so I’ve got to do everything through the phone or paperwork. I mean they’re much better now, they used to be ab-so-lutely-immovable, you could not do anything wrong, you were wrong and you didn’t get the passport, and if you didn’t get the passport it couldn’t go in the food chain. But I had two that when I was on holiday hadn’t been registered, and when they were about 4 years old, I applied for the passport again, and they’d relaxed the rules and we did get them before they had to go out, so there is a little bit of give and take now but there wasn’t before, and I think quite a few people went out then. And I must admit, it gave me quite a….but…if I got an ill cow now, we just had our local slaughterhouse… it’s just closed. Now if I have a cow that’s ill, with just a minor foot problem, if I put her in the market somebody will say she’s lame. But if I get my vet to say that she’s capable of actually going to the local slaughterhouse, she can go to the slaughterhouse and be put down straight away. You can’t kill them on the farm, you can’t use the meat if you kill them on the farm, so they’ve got to go to a special place. Now the nearest one is Guildford or Romford to do that. Now, from the welfare of the cows it’s terrible – I mean it if she’s a good old cow I’ll put her down anyhow – but you can’t afford to have every cow put down on the place just because she’s got old, you know, they get, they get tatty and you love them enough to really want the best for them, and I mean the vets are very good and we can treat them, and some of them get better, but some of them don’t, and I , I just think the welfare now, there’s an awful lot of talk about good welfare, but there’s an awful lot of people that are absolutely hard-pressed for the… We keep all our cows, they go out during the summer and spring and autumn, and they’re only in, in the winter. And, if we had to keep them in, because of financial – cause it’s dearer to keep them out to grass – we, we would have given up anyhow, before, before this….we just love to see them out, and they, they just , they just it. But it takes me half an hour to go and get them, morning and evening, and I get up quarter past 5 to get them in so that whoever’s milking has cows to milk in the morning, and the cows, we milk them, we hope close to 12 hour intervals, so that they give the same amount of milk, they don’t quite, but you don’t have a lot of milk on them, and it does mean a long day, so one of the milkers milk in the morning and one of them milk at night, so one of them finishes at 8 o clock at night and the other one comes at quarter past 5 in the morning. I’m, I’m not milking, I, I’m not helping at quarter past, er at 8 o clock night, I’m usually asleep in bed by then but…


B: Do you want the difference in the milking techniques now to what…?

K: Yes, has that changed?

B: Yes, I mean when I was, when I was young, and my father was milking cows we used to milk them in a cow stall, and it had just come in, that you had a bucket that you put to the airlines along the, the stalls, so that you milked into a bucket, and then you, tipped that into a ch- you crawled it, and tipped it into a churn. When I started, there was a pipeline that you milked into, you didn’t have the buckets and it still went into churns in the dairy, and when I came here that’s what we were doing, and then we put a parlour in 1976, and we’ve increased the size of it since. We were only milking about 70 cows then, we’re now up to 120, and it’s just economics really. And now that it’s robotic parlours where the cows come to the robot, they walk in and that milks them, and it milks them up to 4 times a day, some of them even more if the cows giving, she’s fed at the same time, but the cows have to be around the robot, and I’ve gone into this, and it would take two robots if we wanted them out to grass all the time

K: Is that cause they’d produce more milk?

B: They don’t actually produce much more milk, it’s just that the robots are busy, and the cows have to go out for a, a certain time, you haven’t got enough time to milk them near to the, near to the buildings. If you were near to the buildings and the cows like in, in Holland, they’re out in yards, so they never go out at all, they can milk 100 cows because all they’ve got to do is to go into the robot, and eat drink, eat, and sleep. But if they’re going any distance at all, you’ve just got to double up on your robots. I’m told that’s going to be the future, you’ve got to have some pretty good stockmen if it’s the future. Because it’s very easy to miss an ill cow, and when I go out to collect them, 9 times out of 10, I can tell if a cow’s off-colour, and that’s just collecting. Cow doesn’t get up right or she’s a bit later than usual, or she’s just not right, and that saves an awful lot of vets’ fees and you can, you can sort it out perhaps without antibiotics. Don’t like the amount of antibiotics we’re having to use, – there’s definitely a build-up of….immunity to them, somewhere along the line. When I first started, I was brought a, in the farm I worked at in Folkestone, I was brought a big… thirty of them in a box, from Pfizers, and we weren’t told what to do with them, we were told that, you know to try and treat this and one tube would actually cure the mastitis. We thought it was magic, I mean it w- it WAS magic, but now you’re lucky if 6 tubes do the same, the same trick. And so we’ve seen it, and I think it’s quite worrying and although it worries me, it worries me more that Sweden won’t let farmers have antibiotics without the vet coming because the vet’s visit’s £100 minimum, and you know what the cow’s got anyhow. And, the cow – in a lot of cases, mastitis it one of them – it is so virulent she will die within 24-hours if she doesn’t get it. So by the time you’ve got the vet out or even if they’re quick you know, you’ve, you’ve let her go down that much more. And I find that, I kind of console myself that I’m going out now and I won’t have to worry about it, but I have worried about that a lot. Because I would like to have had the time to practice…what you do with an ill cow, and not use antibiotics, cause I’m just sure there’s a way of treating these cows without quite so many. But you just haven’t got the time to put it in, and nobody is going to take the time, we’re not going to give them enough money for the antibiotics, we pay a lot of money for, so that they can test it. But I’m sure, kindness and love does a lot.

K: Who is it sorry, that’s been enforcing all these antibiotics, is it the…

B: It isn’t, it isn’t, we’re not enforced now. As long as the, you, you can’t get, you can’t kind of buy a cow and get your antibiotics, that, that is not on. If you buy a cow and she’s ill you’ve got to get the vet, the vet’s got to trust you and he’s got to know that the extent of your knowledge and that’ll take two or three years of quite a few cows, I mean I had a, I had a vet used to be in Tenterden, wonderful bloke, I loved him dearly, totally different from the modern vets. He wouldn’t half tell me off if I’d even half treated it wrong, so you didn’t treat it wrong you jolly well listened to him, and you, you’d phone him up and you’d say “John, this cow’s got this that and the other”, and he said “Well you know what it is”, and he said “Well it looks a bit like…” “Course it’s like that! Come and get some anti-biotics for it, well we had a wonderful relationship. And when he retired, you know it broke my heart, and I’ve had some fairly good ones, but not as good. And some of these modern ones, and I hate to say it, I’m gonna put my foot in it in a big way now. These young girls that think they can look after cows as a vet, it is wishful thinking. They come to me as a student to learn what we do on the farm, we have them a week, they are about 4 foot 10, weigh about 6 stone if they’re lucky, and we give them a cow to halter, you know or to hold, and the cow takes them for a walk. I mean they haven’t a clue how to handle stock, there isn’t enough experience, we haven’t got the time, to give these people, to know what cows are about. And I think it takes them an awful long time, probably the 8 years for training and the two years out on the vets when they come round to me, and they’re sent out to me, when I phone up at 4 o clock in the morning and say we’ve got a Caesar, and actually I’ve been very rude now and I won’t accept them because one or two of them have made mistakes and we’ve lost cows, you know it’s not really their fault, but they just haven’t got the experience to actually treat that cow the way she should be treated. And we pay quite a lot of money, and so you’ve paid for the vet, you pay £200 to have a dead cow carted away, and you have a hard job not to fall out with the vets. So, give the vets their due, they are speaking to me, but, I think they have to bite their tongue occasionally, and I don’t hold back in what I say to them, because my cows are my livelihood and I don’t like them hurt, and I think, that is a dying thing. There are a lot of very very good herdsmen around, but with more and more cows, herdsmen are looking after 400 head of stock. I couldn’t, I couldn’t even attempt to do that. I’m pushed at 200, and this is with Fiona and Phillip both seeing ill cows – they’re not ill, very often. But when they are you’ve got to really motor with what they, they go lame you’ve got to treat their feet, you’ve got to pick them up and trim them just like a blacksmith. You get good at it; my daughter is absolutely brilliant at it. But it’s hard work and it’s time consuming. And it’s so easy to say “I’ll do her tomorrow”, but that isn’t, that isn’t how you farm, you’ve actually got to actually be on top on everything because if you’re not, they’ll get on top of you. And they’re nervous breakdown things cows, if they get on top of you, if you have one thing go wrong, you’ll have six things go wrong and it’ll be one on top of the other. But you learn to live with it, and after it you get 6 calves in a row all smiling at you without any trouble at all, and even 4 o clock in the morning they’re lovely.

… [pause]

B: So, where were we?

K: Yeah, so…

B: Wages are another thing [laughs]. I started off earning £3.75, and I was, I was literally kind of doing the who- the whole caboodle with cows then, and I wasn’t paid as much as men, you know this is some, I didn’t want as much as the men, I was quite happy with my lot. This is, this, the whole thing has changed completely but speaking personally, you’ve got to be incredibly strong – physically – you’ve got to be very very healthy because you’re out in all weathers, you get filthy, don’t have to like the beauty side of life really, you, lipstick isn’t really on in the morning and the cows don’t look at your hairstyle. So, you’ve really, don’t, you don’t have to worry about tha. I’ve been incredibly lucky and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have erm, a husband that kind of gave me, we didn’t have any money so I had to do it very very carefully, but he gave me a free hand, because he said…he was very clever, he said I did it better than him which made me think “Oh aren’t I clever”, and did it for kind of 30 years without thinking, “Oh that was clever Arthur, you managed to do it., and let me do it without you helping me at all!” [laughs] And he wasn’t much good at the other side either! [laughs] He wasn’t much of a farmer, he was just a nice easy-going bloke who was very, very accident prone. So we got on, on very well. And…the son that died, he, he wanted to farm. Then Fiona took it over. I’ve got another son who comes and helps out on the electrical side, if we have any motors go wrong, he comes from Whitstable, much to his wife’s disgust at times, but she’s very good and gives him time off [laughs].

K: Is it quite, I mean, obviously it’s very much a family run farm, is it quite big, or is this the….

B: We’ve got 200 acres. We’ve bought the 100 acres since we bought 84 acres when we sold the two cottages that were with the farm.

K: When was that sorry?

B: That was….Oh…. In the 80s somewhere, but I can’t remember

K: That’s ok

B: It’s quite a long…and then we bought 30 acres of marsh ground just beyond Ham Street that I rear heifers on. They’re just on that, that land through the summer and they come up here for the winter. And it really does make them grow, they’re, it, it’s really very good growing land, so we’re keeping that for the heifers that we keep, we keep back. Most of the buildings we built on the farm, they were very tatty and old, we’ve upgraded most of them, we’ve just put solar panels on one,

K: Oh really?

B: which is very good for the cooling of the milk and things, the heating of the water, so we don’t know quite how we’re going to use those, but we’ll, we’ll find some way of using them. But, they’ll pay for themselves before the end anyhow. And, we’ll get just a bit of part time labour in, but in general the work shouldn’t be so, well, you’re not getting up at both ends of the day for 2, 3 hours milking and looking after the cows. So it’ll be easier on Fiona’s knees, and she can get on with her pottery,

because she’s very skilled. She actually doesn’t like the day to day pottery, what she does, if people have a favourite animal like my bull at the back [ on the shelf], that was him and that is him, I mean I stroke his nose. That’s Ran, that is Ran down to a….she does the likeness. But the trouble with that is, if she doesn’t get the likeness, typically artistic, she goes off in a huff and doesn’t speak to anybody for a month, you know, it starts all over again. So it gets a bit expensive. But you know, we get on terribly well considering we’re mother and daughter, she’s not married, so she is put on rather a lot. But not, it’s, the house is a shambles at the moment even more so, we haven’t got an upstairs loo so can’t invite friends which is a great pity because they invite me, I get, I get ooh a lot of friends, I’ve got people that have cows up in Lancashire and I’ve got open invitations for out there, just don’t get time to get up there, that’s the trouble. But they’re genuinely nice people and all we do is talk cows, and I’ll still talk cows because I don’t know anywhere else to talk.

K: Cause will you- did you say you’ll be keeping some cows…?

B: We’ll be keeping all the young stock that we have

K: And will that just be for- Will you still be milking them or will that just be a sort of….

B: No we’ll keep a house cow. In fact, the cow I bought Fiona for her 50th birthday, she slipped a calf about…a month ago.

K: Ok

B: and I said that’s fate Fiona because she can be our house cow for a little while and see how we go, because you always get something go wrong with something, but I think she, I- funny thing is I think she’ll be worth quite a lot of money when she calves again, and she, you know she will, but she’s a sweet cow, so she will, she’ll take to being a house cow quite nicely.

K: Is she the only cow…will you only have one house cow or will you have a few?

B: Well as they come in again to, to milk, we’ll have to milk them before they go for sale again they you see, you, you kind of milk them for at least a fortnight, I like to milk them for at least a month, just to see there’s everything’s absolutely right with them. So we’ll have to keep the parlour until we don’t do that again, and we’ll have at least 20 heifers in calf again next year. So they’ll come in in the Autumn, and they’ll, they’ll, we’ll settle them and they’ll go up to beast and they- we won’t keep an official milking herd but we’ll, we’ll actually get them right for other people to milk them.

K: Right I see

B: That’s, they’re at their most profitable once they’ve calved, as long as they’ve calved right, and you’re sure to get one in 10 go wrong. They come right again sometimes, but they don’t always and this is, this is life. Some of the cows you don’t think are gonna be any good, turn out wonderful, and other cows, you think are gonna be good let you down badly [laughs]. Yeah, no it’s, it’s a lovely job, you can’t have anything as a cert. You can have the cow that you think is going to come down and look beautiful and have a wonderful calf, everything will go wrong and she’ll be a culled cow really at the end of that. And you’ll have other cows, I had an old 8th calver calved out 6 weeks ago. She had a lovely heifer calf, all on her own, and she looks a picture now, really looks a picture. She’s one of the ones going locally, and you know, you just get such pleasure from that, and she probably will go on and have two or three others. That’s something that’s happened though, the cows aren’t lasting as long. I used to have 10, 12… you know cows that had had 12, 13 calves in the old days, and I used to get a lot of milk out of them. I didn’t used to, I mean I’ve always got a lot of milk, but now, we don’t strive for 10,000 liters a cow [phone rings again]

B: But our cows do between 8 or 9,000 liters in about a year. They, they, a cow calves for a first time – just over 2 we calve them, you so you have to keep them 2 years before they actually become profitable, and then, they calve every year if they’re very good. Some, some families calve every year and they are very good but in general they’re not the very heavy yielding milkers. The 10,000 liters heifer which is a first calver, if she does 10,000 liters she won’t usually get in calf for an extra three months. And if you allow them to do that, they might not look as pretty cause they, their udder gets bigger and bigger, but they will last, but if you try and do it in the year, the animal can’t cope. And the, the general consensus with all these very big herds is, they’re getting more and more out of the cow. But I think there’s a, a finite end to some of these hard working cows. You get the phenomenon that, or do it…we had a cow that’d give 20,000 liters, without thinking, and in a year. But in the end, her udder just goes big, but she had 4 calves before, before it did. I had my, one of my original cows, Wendy which is the 8th calver’s relation, she had 14 calves…and she did well over 120 tons in her lifetime. And, didn’t think anything of it. She didn’t, just banged out the calves, she had 14 calves in 14 years and that was it. [phone rings again]. Then, had twins and just melted away, so you put them, I put her down. I can’t see a cow ill, and I can’t see a cow in pain, so I’ve either got to do something. That’s changed, we weren’t allowed to use painkillers in the old days, but now a painkiller will actually save you using antibiotics. If a cow injures itself and you give it a painkiller, it gets over the pain and it’s body’s natural reactions come in and it won’t, it won’t go wrong, it won’t get mastitis or get an infection. And that, that’s a wonderful thing I think, being allowed to use painkillers. Hm….


Joe: You talked a little bit about… you touched on the fact that a lot of the smaller farms are having to close up for a variety of reasons.

B: It is the variety, and it’s usually one of the main people getting too old, or the younger ones, if you keep stock, the hours you work during the winter, is just so long, if you’ve got anything like the numbers. And these youngsters want a life, and you don’t get a life with, you don’t get a social life at all, and I don’t blame these youngsters for telling their Mum or Dad you know, “I want a 9-5” job and if they’re clever enough, good luck to them because they’re gonna get tired. If, if they, I mean there’s some wonderful youngsters and so skilled, and stockmen, but they are…the…exception rather than the rule. It’s quite a paying job milking for other people, and…if you’re milking a herd of between 400 and 1000 cows, you’ve got to have quite a lot of – milkers they are, they’re not stockmen – and an awful lot of Poles have come over. And I think they’ve probably saved an awful lot of herds actually, the Poles, they’re very conscientious, they do as they’re told, but they’re not what I call born stockmen. Born stockmen wear themselves out looking after cows. And, you get so much result from looking after, you know if you, if a cow thinks she’s going to have a dead cow, calf, you know. You go out and you can almost see her think “ooh! Help’s on the way!”, and you help her and it’s quite hard work helping and this is where Phillip comes in, cause he’s got about 6 inches longer hands than me, and he can, he can, I can go in tell him where the calf is – or in the old days I did – he used to go in get ropes on necks where it had turned round and find out which leg goes where, cause you get twisted up twins, and the head and the tail are all mixed up and you get one, one front feet and four back feet, all kinds of funny twisting up. And he is absolute expert with his long arms. He goes in there and sorts them all out. And you give these, this, this cow, you know the twins that have been twisted up and she’s been in awful kind of, “I’m sure I’m in trouble Mum”, and you dump the calves down and she goes “ooh! I’ve got a live calf!” And it’s just like a shot of adrenalin into them, it’s wonderful to see, they just don’t believe it. That’s something, that you go to bed, and although your adrenalin’s pumping as well you know, you’re so pleased with yourself, and that, that’s worth more than money. I won’t die very rich, funny thing is, the land’s the rich thing at the minute, and we don’t know what to do with it, I, I keep saying to Mike, he said you know “If you sold you’d be rich”, and what would I do with the money? I’ve been tight with money all my life, and I wouldn’t know how to spend it. Yes, I’d probably go to New Zealand, I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand, it’s one place I haven’t got to. I’ve been to Ethiopia and America, and, all looking at cows.

K: Why did you go there, to look for cows? Was that for…?

B: Ethiopia, a friend that used to organise trips was involved in a school there, and we all kind of supported him in what he did around the place, and he put on the trip and I thought it was an opportunity to do something I would never do off my own back. And it was a holiday you’d never forget. And you could see why they’d get droughts, because the cows roam the country, so when they have – and I mean it’s such a fertile country in the right years, and the people are lovely, and so handsome, and the women are so beautiful, they’re such an elegant nation. But, sandy and blowy, and they grow maize…and they fence it with the most peculiar fencing. And all the animals go out, and a little boy looks after them through the day and brings them back at night. He has to take them to the water and bring them back at night. And he has about 50, 60 head of cattle which walk miles to get the grazing that’s available. I don’t know how it’s managed, I’d have loved to have known. But the cattle are reared, and at night they come in near their owner’s place where they’ve saved all the spare bits that they’ve been, and that’s what the cattle eat. And as the animals get fatter, they move nearer and nearer and nearer to Addis Ababa. The cattle around Addis Ababa, just outside, were wonderful fat cattle; they, they’d really look good in any British market. But outside, a long way away, they were much less mature. So, there must be a wonderful organisation going on there. But of course if they get the drought, the cattle haven’t got anywhere to eat. And they’re, they’re looking and when we went over there, they’d had 2 or 3 good years so they had quite a lot of cattle per household, and you could just see if they had a dry year what would happen. And it was, it was so worrying because all the goats eat the trees, and it was just, it, it really is a place wanting a bit of management, but of course the whole situation is all the families have a cow and from thereon there, that’s their, that’s their livelihood. And you can’t, you can’t go out into other people’s country and change their way of life – you wouldn’t like, well, I wouldn’t like my way of life changed.

K: Is that something you feel perhaps that the bureaucracy, or the bureaucratic element of farming…is that trying to change, you know, what you…

B: Yes, I, I think it is. I mean, 1000 cow herd is going to be very, very common before long. They, they put up enormous buildings, they put in rotary parlours for those in general. The cows walk on the roundabout, they get ever so good, and they seem to quite like the trip round every milking. But, I, they, they say it’s erm, a help for keeping the costs down. Seems to be an enormous cost when they first put it in…

And when I ask how many people are working, it’s still very much the same as we’ve got, kind of one person to a 100 cows is nearly always, and there’s usually a tractor driver around somewhere. The, the number of people that are around these farms, I, I find very interesting. I do think they’re quite expensive, more expensive than perhaps on the surface to run. We, we, run fairly cheaply and we buy in stuff from other farmers. But there’s an awful lot of give and take in the farming, when you get to know the people, and I love that. You don’t write anything down, you say yes you’ll do it and you’ll do it, you don’t, you don’t forget to do it, and they do exactly the same. And a handshake is worth an awful lot in that kind of thing, but I don’t deal with many youngsters so I don’t know if they….

K: Is that something that you think’s perhaps changing, so it’s becoming much more business like…

B: Oh very business like

K: And there’s less of the handshake, more formal?

B: It is quite formal and the formal people come in, you have your agent now, you have people that actually manage your cows, they don’t milk, they actually manage the cows. So, there’s a manager and then there’s the people that milk the cows and then there’s people that actually clean the yards, everybody’s got their jobs. And that’s alright, but the jobs run together sometimes and if, if you’ve got a cut off. We’re quite incredible as a three because if anybody comes to take one of them, one of us just take over from the other, I don’t do the milking anymore, but if, if I’m called in from doing anything, those two will take over, and nobody will say what to do, because everybody knows we do it. So, you, you don’t get that, on these big farms. And, and the machines are worth so much, so big, and that’s you know, when you go out to buy a tractor you have to take a big deep breath and we usually kind of buy it over three years anyhow. And luckily we bought ours not so long ago, but the manager would be the next thing to be…You really do have to work out finances, from a long way off. And the cows have always been my bank. It’s the cows, I’ve always been able to sell a certain amount, to get a certain amount of money to buy what I want at the time, and that’s why I like the breeding part of it, because it means if I’m any good at judging the cows, I can keep the best ones, which now I’ve got to sell of course, but I’ve kept them all this time, so I’ve had the pleasure of those, yeah.

K: What was the part of the reason you’ve decided to stop cows? Was that- was it because of the changes that happened?

B: No, the major changes are Fiona’s knees, she can’t milk. Philip, we- taken over some of the milking but I couldn’t – for the first time in my life, something’s happened that I can’t actually go in and sort out, that was another thing. I’ve come up with my husband being very, very accident prone, and I’ve been able to jump in every time anything’s happened. Over the last 2 or three years, I’ve been getting, I’m 76, and I’m just beginning to find that I can’t do what I used to do. So I find the jobs I can do which relieves them to do the outside jobs, fencing, and things like that, silaging, things like that. But the health of my daughter’s more important, than me keeping cows. And, I wouldn’t have been able to keep the cows if she hadn’t come in and milked, because Phillip wasn’t milking before she came in to milk, so he came in and relief milked for her when she took over from Christopher. And so, it’s been very much, whatever happens. And my priority above Fiona’s knees as it turned out was to find Phillip a good job because he is a worker in a million. No degree, no paperwork, but still worth more than anybody with a degree on a farm, once he gets to know what to do, nothing will be left and everything will be done and if you asked him for extra jobs, he’d be- [hears kitchen noises, calls out] are you making tea?!

Fiona: Yeah

B: We’ll have a cup

Fiona: Do you want tea or coffee?

K: Erm, tea, please.

Joe: can I have coffee? B: Yeah, we’re used to you coffee people…Not too much milk remember!

K: So is Phillip, is he the one that lives in Whitstable?

B: No he’s, that, that’s my son. Phillip lives in Aldington locally

K: And is he, sorry, who’s Phillip?

B: Philip is the person who’s worked for us…when my son died he was his best friend. My son was 18 and Philip was the same age, they were school pals together. And he said he’d give me 6 months…Well he gave me quite a few years before he got married, and then, his wife said she didn’t like him farming, so he went to work on the buses, don’t know for quite how long. So we were running down the cows, Fiona and I, and she said she was going to divorce him, so he came back, wanted his job back. So we- that’s when the bull came in, cause I had 30 damn calving heifers due to calve in the Autumn and he came in the May and we only had 70 cows and I said he had to go back on the same wages as he left us on, and we weren’t earning enough at the time for that, but I said we, we could manage it up till these came in. And the heifers were exceptionally good, which is why I loved the bull, and Philip’s worked for us ever since. And 37 years on and of and he’s…well he’s part of the family I s’pose really. And I was very, very upset, but the person who is going to do the arable side, he’s renting 80 acres of mine, he wanted some help, and Philip said well that’ll be good because I can pick and choose some of the other jobs I do, he’s going self-employed. So he’s got a set job, and he’ll come and help us every so often.

The trouble is he would help us whenever. So I’ve got to watch that I, what I, cause if I asked him to do anything, it’s always done. So I’m very good at telling an ill cow, and I judge people by telling them when they can tell me how ill a cow is [laughs]. K: Yes [laughs]. I suppose, I was thinking actually, that’s something that probably also has changed, this sort of er..intuitive nature of farming, whereas you know, you said you know when a cow’s ill that must be something that’s not taught

B: They haven’t got time. You can’t, you can’t, it’s something you learn from experience, You’re going you’re getting the cows in, and that cow over there is lying bit on her own, go on, go and have a look at her before you get the others up. And you, you save cows lives like that, but you haven’t got a youngster by you that you can explain all that to, because they don’t want to come out and get the cows every day because that’s a boring job. And actually, they don’t want to get up at 5 o clock in the morning either.

K: Yeah. I suppose that’s one way in which then, having you know, having all these different jobs on farms is the way that the younger people can avoid…well avoid you know, having to get up and milk the cows.

B: That’s right…And there’s a lot of shifts in the very big farms, and then a lot of them at the moment are trying to make it pay by milking the cows three times a day

K: Is that too much?

B: Well no I don’t think it is, if it’s done properly the cows are relieved, cause these cows are giving 10,000 litres over a year, so they’re fairly full uddered, quite a lot of the time. If you’re milking them three times a day they’re never too full in the udder. But what you’ve got to remember a cow lies down quite a lot of her life and if she’s being shifted three times a day to go milking she’s got to find time to eat, and she’s got to find time to lie down. Now when we put the cows out there at, kind of 8 o’ clock in the morning, no later usually, they go out there, and they’re out there till 4 o’ clock and they can do exactly as they like. And you’ll find them lying down, and they’ve got certain times that they’ll get up and graze, and they’re a great thing, a great animal of habit, and if you’re half an hour to an hour late, they’ll be at the gate telling you in no uncertain terms – I mean they really will tell you. So if you’ve got unhappy cows, you’re in trouble. You know, they don’t want to do as they’re told, they want to go and do what they did yesterday [laughs]

K: Has a routine…

B: [laughs] Yes, it is! And, I’ve been brought up with it, Fiona’s been brought up with it, Philip’s been brought up by us so you know he’s brou- , and we know if any cow gets into trouble, all of us have got our jobs, one way or another. Philip handles them, and they get stuck on top of gates, and they get in the most peculiar places. And, the last cow to die on this farm- touch wood I hope it’s one of the last, cause we’ve had a little bit of a run of it – throttled herself by hanging herself up on a gate, getting stuck with her head, and then losing her hind legs while nobody was around And when Fiona went out, there she was, dead. And that’s the kind of thing you’ve got to live with, but you don’t half swear at her. I mean, you really think what a silly…. [laughs] I won’t say what I was going to say, but she is! And, and you know, it’s 200 pounds to get her carted off the farm, and you think to yourself there as a 1500 pound cow, hanging on a gate dead! But it’s one of those things you live with, and I mean, it’s why we’re nearly always there at every calving. We don’t have to help a lot of them, but we’re there, just to see that everything goes right, cause we don’t like dead calves either. And, you, you’ve got, with an older cow you’ve got to see they’re not short of calcium and things like that. There’s a new product out now, that we’ve only used on two cows…I don’t know what they put in it, but you give them a warm drink, it’s got a lot of calcium in it, and one cow, knocked Fiona out the way to get her second bucket K: Really?

B: But I had one on Sunday and she didn’t, she didn’t like it. But apparently it’s wonderful stuff. But we bullet them with calcium bullets if they don’t like that, we literally shoot them and it’s [laughing], it sounds terribly easy putting one of these things, but trying to keep them still and shooting them as you get older is not funny [laughs]

K: No. I mean, is that something that you’ve had to do….I imagine you wouldn’t always have had to feed them calcium would you?

B: Yes, they got milk fever, I’ve, I’ve known milk fever since I was little.

K: And what’s that, sorry?

B: That is lack of calcium. As they calf, before they calf, you actually don’t feed them calcium, you’ve got to, they, they’ve got to have a certain diet, they- you don’t feed them the same before they calf. After they calf, their bodies take on a tremendous stress factor of grabbing all the calcium going, to start milking you see. It’s all, all…and the first couple of days are very, very critical, some cows…seem to do it terribly well, but they’re not the heavy yielders. Most heavy yielders you’ll have to do something about calcium when they calf. We used to wait until they got milk fever, they used to, the, the famous thing of milk fever is they lie with their heads very turned round, and you go in there and milk fever, and we used to put it into the veins, er milk fever [calcium?] into the veins, but we don’t, in general we- nobody likes jabbing a cow, so when the bullets came out, we, we and they work very well, I mean they really do work well and we, normally do it before the cow has licked her calf, we, we’ve had her on a halter perhaps to calve her so we’ve got her on a halter and we, we do it then, and they just sail through the first two days no trouble at all. And, that’s when if you’re going to have any really big illness you’ll get it and you have to really be careful of mastitis as they calve. It, it the, the stress is, the different between the cows I milked when I first started, they were good cows if they gave 6,000 liters, now they’re poor cows if they don’t give 9. It is the breeding, and one of my favourite topics is who’s doing the choosing for the breeding? Because the bulls involved are all on geonomics now. Now th-, they, that is, the people that are breeding the bulls go in, and say that cow is geonomically superior to a lot of the others. And we’re getting to the stage that bulls coming in, and their fathers or their mothers and their mothers, none of the animals have had a calf. Because they’re so geonomically good, the dams, they’re not actually milking them, they’re actually just flushing them for eggs, so they never actually do a lactation, they just produce eggs. Now how am I going to know as a farmer who’s got to have a cow calved to get my milk, they’re gonna stand up to that? All through the time I’ve been breeding, I’ve always chosen animals, fe- females out of 4 or 5th calf cows, as a minimum. I’ve looked for cows that have survived 5 calves and there, there they are looking at me normally, and it, it is really paying off now. My cows are lasting, and the bull here, his relations, very, very high type, working, up to 10 lactations for 10 generations back. And I’ve been very, very critical of the geonomic. I’m told I’m very old fashioned. But I’ve been old fashioned before and seen it come back. It’ll be interesting in 20 years time – you can, you can bring this up then. Because I want to know, who said the bull that they said was geonomically superior had been around for 3 or 4 years, and nobody had taken any notice of that he was bad on his feet, he di- his conformation wasn’t all that good, and all of a sudden he was the bees knees. And he, he threw balls after balls. Now I don’t do as much travelling seeing the stock as I do, and I might be talking through my head, but I’ve got a very funny feeling, some of the erm, things that are being bred in now could be very, very recessive. There was an American bull came over and everybody said what a fantastic bull. Well I went over to America, and saw the discard Durhams, in people’s, you, you’d look in looseboxes that you weren’t supposed to look in, and they had literally funny tails that weren’t there, and the back, the backbone was collapsing into the anus, and….the, actual pelvis, and most of his stock was about 2 or 3 inches longer than a normal one. And, he’s died a bit of a death, he, I thought he was going to come up, because I was, I was saying we’re not going to use him, his temperament was… temperament’s something else too. If you’ve got a cow that’s going to hurtle round the place, she’s not going to give you all her milk. If you can walk round your cows without upsetting them, you know they’re quite happy with you, all the time. And I’ve, I’ve loved my trips to America, I, I love the country people of America. I’ve seen all- you know, managed to get to Yosemite, going to see it, and big places like that, they’re it, it…. I’ve got to take Fiona cause she hasn’t seen it and I won’t mind going back for the third time to Yosemite.

K: No…third time…is that… so are the cows you see in America, in Yosemite?

B: they’re in California

K: California

B: and Wisconsin. Wisconsin was slightly smaller, California….no herd’d be under 1000

K: Really?

B: And you go to 30,000, er 3,000 cows where the milk tankers keep rolling in and clean the tanks and rolling out again. But I went round there, and absolutely fantastic buildings, and everybody, managing this that and the other. And this poor girl that was looking after, well I think it was the daughter of the, origi- the owner, she…came up, she said “I’m so sorry,” she said “you’re going to see three dead calves, we haven’t been able to keep up with it”, and I thought “no, I don’t think you’re keeping up with it anyhow, you, you know you just can’t be everywhere at once, it’s, it’s numbers again.

K: Yeah, especially not on…cause obviously California’s huge, the farms must be on a massive scale

B: And not really the right environment, because it gets very, very hot in the, the summer. They live in paddocks outside, and they have places that they can go under and shower, you know they have cold, cold showers. But they have thunderstorms, and when the thunderstorms come, where they’ve mucked it turns the whole lot into a mire, and if it stays humid, they go and pick the dead cows up the day after because they cannot keep up with the pneumonia. And, this is, it is factory farming on a huge, huge say, scale. Terribly interesting to see. And they’re very, very interesting, but I came back, the first time I went, there wasn’t, the almond trees the second time I went, all the… California had almond trees with three or four layers one on top of the other where the almonds were. All irrigated and we went into one herd that had been in the same place, 100 years, and he was saying they’d just put a boar hole down they’d had to go 1000 feet. When his father, when his grandfather came they only had to go down 1000 feet, and we all took a breath because, it is, such a grabby society. It is quite frightening. And Yosemite’s trees, you know, they, they, where the where the fires are. But it’s beautiful, abso- awesome, absolutely awesome. …


K: How did you get in touch with, I mean, erm, the farmers in America to go over and see them? Did they…?

B: It’s the semen, I mean you buy semen, and when… at first we couldn’t actually even use semen from America, and, all of a sudden we, there were trips over to see the bulls that they were going to be allowed to send over, and I wasn’t in the first trudge of people that went over, but I did use some bulls that they brought over and I was lucky. I had some very, very good cattle. And so I went over, and, what I usually found was, the bulls not to use, wasn’t the [yawns], they, the good bulls weren’t quite as good as they were selling, but what they were actually selling were the bulls they couldn’t sell in America – as I’ve, I’ve learnt. And they were making a big bally-hoo of it over here, so it’s saved us quite a lot of bad bulls over there, and we were allowed to see them in their studs, we were allowed to go round other people’s herds. The herds in general, was very hard to see the daughters because they were so big, and the people couldn’t find them, you know, and in 2,000 to find 20 of the bull’s daughters, somebody had to be really on the ball. I saw 200 daughters of 1 bull in 1 herd, but we- they were just rushed by us, they’d been put in a pen on their own. And they went by us, and although I, I’m not a show person, I like a good, type of cow, that walks well. But, I’ve learnt an awful lot from going to America, going to America, with people that know a lot more than me, specially youngsters, I get on terribly well with the youngsters. I went with some prize winning youngsters, to Madison, which is a big show in America, top cattle show. And I saw all the faking, I went round looking at the faking and I went back and met some of the youngsters and I said “have you seen all the false tails?” “No” they said. I said “they’re pumping air into their udders to!”, “are they?!” and they all went round, and they came back absolutely gawping. I was looking up the fronts of young bulls and they said “what are you looking at their heads for Bridget, that isn’t where you look!”, and their mouths, parrot mouths, undershot, and overshot jaws, you see the animals in America don’t graze so it doesn’t matter to you over in America if they’re, they’re actually gonna just curl their tongue round and eat. But there are some bad mouth bulls, and you’re not told, you’ve got, you’ve gotta be…I found, although I couldn’t match them in judging a class, I was looking at the practical side, and we both fed off, and when I didn’t know something I’d say “that’s a good cow” knowing it was the worst one, and they’d all, about three of them would all come up and explain why and I’d say, “well why’s that one good” which is why I wanted to, and they’d tell me. And that’s how I’ve learnt, I can actually spot quite a good show cow now, but I couldn’t when I first started. I wasn’t a very good judge then. And I still wouldn’t like to judge, there’s a lot of money involved in winning classes. We used to go to Kent and do quite well, but it’s getting pretty professional now. So, you know, we leave it alone. We, well, we leave it alone, we left it alone this year for the first time, and this was before we were going to sell, purely and simply because 500 pounds to get up there, when we, when we did well and got the reserve champion that would have, we’d have cleared that but we weren’t clearing it with the professionals. If you get second to a professional, which we did a year ago, you know, bit beyond, we were very pleased with that. Somebody likes her so I’m sure she’s probably gone. But it helps your sales and I’m not a good salesman. The great thing about selling milk is you don’t have to be a good salesman. You’ve got to know your cows, to sell them, but the milk, somebody else sells it for you. Takes too much out of it, if I really want to be truthful. But in general, you know, we’ve had a good life, a good hand of it, and we’re being left with a farm that’s worth an awful lot of money, they won’t sell it in my time, and I doubt if Fiona will sell it very, very, very quickly. She wants to stay farming, I want to keep my hand in, we’re going to get terribly fat if we don’t. So we’ve, we’ve got to kind of manage our money that way. Anything else?

K: I think that’s all…we’ve got quite a lot [turns to Joe] unless you’ve got any more?

Joe: erm, I just have, just have one final…

B: No, I don’t, I don’t mind, you know, I, you’re talking my, my game remember?

Joe: so we, we just finished on people on selling up and it’s happening to a lot of specially the smaller, the smaller farmers. What effect does that have on the families?

B: I mean the people that have done it, the father’s probably been left the farm, so he thinks he’s a bit of a failure for, for selling the cows. In general, they keep the farm, but I was only saying to somebody the other day, I’ve never borrowed at the bank, it’s why I’ve been poor. I’m terribly pleased now, we’d be in real trouble if we owed money at the bank, we wouldn’t be allowed to do what we’re doing, it isn’t it isn’t your own farm, you can sell your own cows. And, to some of these youngsters, it’s so easy to get in debt and I don’t blame them for getting in debt because some of these salesmen can really sell. Unless you really know what to do, or you’ve got an incredibly good backer, you’ve got to really be careful, because some of the machines, you know you’ve c- could put a new parlour in every 10 years if you want to, and you’re talking hundreds of thousands in various things. And, I think there’s an awful lot of, it’d be the older generation, I don’t think the older ones sell it, if they’ve got anybody good coming up behind. But its injuries, I mean, my husband lost a leg, and we couldn’t, if he’d have been the main person, we couldn’t have kept going and his father wouldn’t have known me to get anybody in to help, so… I knew what time this was then, but I was fit, and thank god I was healthy. And apart from wearing out my knees, succeeded quite well, and you look back, and you don’t know how you did it, but you did and you’ve done it for a purpose, Fiona’s done an awful lot of good, you know, she’s had her say around the place. Philip does too now, and I’ve got two people that can be terribly proud of themselves, and they’ve done it for much less than a lot of other people would. But they’ve got a lot, you know we’ve still got the farm to look at and we’ll, I, I’ve said we’re gonna tidy up the farm, before we go into arable we’ll get everything tidied up so that people’ll say right it’s a tidy farm that, cause when you’re dairying you haven’t got the time for those kind of things. I hope I don’t spend all my money because I want to go on holiday, I do, but… I went into Portugal last year, saw one of the best managed farms with a robot, ever – he managed it beautifully. They had soil that went down over 5 foot of alluvium soil, it was an incredible farm, terribly fertile, terribly well run. But the cows were in all the time, and the calves, in that kind of humidity that they get there, terrible, you, you would get, terribly, they really cough. It was quite funny, I went in, saw a big picture of the big prize winning cow, so kind of got the interpreter to get one of the boys was very interested in showing, we couldn’t speak each other’s language but I knew that was the best cow in Portugal and I said to her “how many”, said to him “how many daughters did she have”, “none” he said and I said “well she’s no good then!” [laughs] and he knew exactly what I said! And when I said to the, the calves [demonstrates coughing], he said yes, it’s the, it’s the weather. But I wouldn’t have liked calves with coughing, coughs like that but I expect it’s very, very hard to keep them without coughs like that in the middle of the summer.

B: You see I wasn’t expecting to find one of the best herds I’d seen but it was the same size as mine you see. I could see it in my, you go into a 3,000 cow herd and you’ve gotta multiply everything up. You see a herd of your own way, and they’re doing it well. But you know, you could still pick out that he wasn’t giving them enough fiber and he was getting a lot of twisted abomasums – this is the trouble with maize. If you feed a lot of maize which we’ve stopped feeding for quite a while now, not because of twisted abomasums but because the farm doesn’t really farm it that well; you get one good crop in about 5. You get two good crops that’d be very passable, and then you get one complete failure and one near failure, so we gave it up. But the maize doesn’t give them the fiber to chew on in the rumen, and you have to feed hay or straw and they were feeding about 2 kilos of straw per cow, and they were paying a lot more for straw than we do. My cows had ad lib straw, they can eat as much as they like. So you know, I said to Fiona, we do some things right cause, touch wood, we’ve had about 2 cases of abomasums since we’ve been here.

K: Wow, that’s good.


B: Yeah

K: I think that’s everything, I think you’ve covered most- yeah all of it I’d say.

B: I suspect I haven’t covered much but I’ve just kind of tanked off! I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t liked to… to have, we, Arthur’s father bought this farm for Arthur and, Arthur was no business person, he’d have gone bust. My neighbour says “Bridget, he’d have gone bust in 2 years if he hadn’t have married you!” B: And I didn’t think, I mean, I didn’t think I was, I thought he was in charge….took me 25 years to realise he wasn’t much of a farmer. See, I was looking after the cows alright, they were doing alright. So, in 25 years all of a sudden, I go “oh my goodness, he doesn’t know what he’s about!” [laughs]

K: By that point it was too late!

B: Yes, and as he was, well…the last 12 years of his life he was getting dementia because of the accident, it knocked him about with lack of oxygen in the brain and…. that’s why I love Philip because we, we’d decide what we were gonna do and then we’d sit Arthur down at breakfast and say “what we gonna do today Arthur?” and suggest that, “yes”, he says, so he thought he’d suggested it, and he didn’t know he had dementia, and it would have killed him, if he’d have known he had dementia he couldn’t have coped with that. So, that was good. But he lasted 12 years after the accident, but it didn’t do his heart any good so… But I took him down to the Wellman clinic on the Thursday, and I rushed in before him, because he didn’t walk all that fast on his false leg, and I said to the nurse there’s something wrong with him. “Are you sure?” I said, “there’s definitely something, and he’s getting very temperamental, and I can’t get him down near a doctor.” “Oh she said, I’ll give him a good once over”, and she came out afterwards when he’d gone and said “I can’t find anything wrong but I have told him to come and see the doctor.” His blood pressure was all over the place, but he kept it going, but you know, he thought that the pills, that the pills were keeping his blood pressure, not him. Anyhow, he went down the village on the Saturday to collect his pension, came back said he wasn’t very well, came in at 2 o’clock and said he hurt a lot. I called the flying – well the doctor that was around, and he said, he’s got to go to hospital. I could see stomach was all defl- you know inflated, and I called Philip and Fiona, and I said go and say goodbye to him, I think this is it. Philip looked at me a bit funny, and I said he hasn’t been right, there’s something wrong here, and I went in and he was telling them that he was allergic to this that and the other, and I said to him “Arthur you’re not allergic”, because you, you learn to cope with somebody that’s got a bit of dementia, you can keep them on the right track and then they get on the right track and they’re alright. [coughs] “No” he says, “I’m not”. So they started to come to me and ask, and I said I think he’s got an aorta… a whatever it is, a blown vein, anyhow, and the old nurse said “Are you a doctor?” and I said “No”, I said “but I look after cows”, I said “you get ever so good at knowing when they’re dying”. She looked at me very old fashioned. Doctor came out two hours later, he said he’s absolutely riddled with cancer, and he’s got the, the blown…he said, and there’s nothing we can do cause his hemoglobin’s down to 2. And I said right, give him painkiller, I said. “I’m not staying with him”, I said “if I stay with him, you won’t give him enough knockout drug, you, he’s in pain, you…” And so at 1 o’clock they phoned me up and said he’d died, and it was the best thing that ever happened because he died the way he wanted to. He wasn’t ill, and I, he was getting his dementia, he was getting very bad tempered when he couldn’t do things, so you know, I was, I was terribly lucky. So, but he, he you know he did his bit; he was a great, great mender, there’s an awful lot of things round the farm that he built. So we, we’ve always pulled together. But, he never got over the son’s death, cause he was holding the gun that killed the son. Son went out shooting crows, about three days after Christmas, about, I think it was 83. I never, I never nailed it because I thought if I, if I nobble a day you start looking towards the day, and so I, you, you forget. Well I was, I was a bit busy cause he was milking the cows at the time, I’d almost given up the cows and, he handed Arthur the gun over two gates, and they were both…they were, they had the dyslexia, and presumably handled it wrong and shot him through there [signals under the jaw], think he left a cartridge in the gun. Died in my arms about 7 hours – 7 hours – 7 minutes later. The old flying doctor was in tears, and the coppers were in tears. And all I could think of, it’s funny how things come, I’ve got three other kids and I mustn’t let this get the better of the family. Came in as clear as clear as clear. And Arthur was a mess really, if, from every day till the day he died, he came in and said, he came in at breakfast and said ‘it should have been me’. And after three years of that and doing all Christopher’s work and looking after Arthur, you kinda want to hit him [laughs], but I stood by him, and got over it, and the farm stands ok. So, I’m quite proud of myself. Recording ends. We have our tea that was brought in, have a chat, then go around the farm, and Bridget shows us her cows.



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Last updated 12 June 2024