Jill’s cows are in par­adise, not on the dinner plate

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Puzzles - Fiona O’Con­nell

AU­TUMN is full of colour­ful con­tra­dic­tion. For though this sea­son an­nounces the year’s ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment, it can hardly be said to be the re­tir­ing type. Cer­tainly, the trees around this coun­try town are a riot of cop­per, gold and rus­set — fallen leaves stretch­ing a stun­ning car­pet over the earth.

Maybe that’s a hint to us hu­mans not to lose our mojo as we ma­ture.

“If you feel like re­tir­ing — or if your health means you have to — that’s fine. But some­times you see peo­ple in their 60s on­wards and still look­ing young, who are just hang­ing around, like they don’t know what to do.”

So says Jill Smith, the farmer who cre­ated a sen­sa­tion by re­tir­ing her herd af­ter decades of hard graft in the dairy. Thanks to a go­fundme cam­paign and the sup­port of an­i­mal res­cuers, some of the herd have al­ready gone to the an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary in Eng­land. An­other lor­ry­load leaves before Christmas, with the rest go­ing over the next 12 months.

Jill is blown away by the love that was shown to her bovines.

“I never thought peo­ple would give money to res­cue cows,” she mar­vels. “Maybe for cats and dogs — but in this coun­try, cows are for the dinner plate. It’s just un­heard of. It’s so bril­liant.”

Her low ex­pec­ta­tions lay be­hind the de­ci­sion to re­main anony­mous for so long. “I didn’t think it would kick off, so I wanted to keep it quiet for as long as I could, though I felt guilty about not telling peo­ple. But it was all so new to me in the be­gin­ning. Only for Char­lie’s Equine Res­cue [the cen­tre which or­gan­ised the cam­paign] where, I don’t know what I’d have done.”

And while this 70-yearold plans to take life a lit­tle eas­ier, she has no in­ten­tion of be­ing idle. Some of the very old cows that were not fit to travel will spend the rest of their days on the farm — “to keep me oc­cu­pied and sane”, says Jill. “As my mother said, you want to die with the buck­ets in your hand.”

This lively ex­pres­sion was in­spired by Jill’s aunt May. “She was out feeding the dogs — she al­ways had cocker spaniels, for gen­er­a­tions — when she dropped dead at the door. T’was lovely,” Jill says, in that quintessen­tially Ir­ish way. “Of course, her fam­ily were in shock — but what a way to go. A bucket in each hand and in her work clothes, with her wellies on.”

But though Jill is keep­ing a firm hold of her buck­ets, she is fi­nally start­ing to re­lax af­ter the bed­lam in­volved in mak­ing bovine his­tory.

“There were so many things to pull to­gether, so much to do be­fore­hand to make it hap­pen. It’s hard to be­lieve they are ac­tu­ally over there.”

Jill ad­mits that she pines for her beloved bovines. “I miss their faces around the yard. There isn’t a night goes by that I don’t dream about the cat­tle.” While the cows prob­a­bly miss their fair-minded farmer too, they are un­doubt­edly over the moo(n). For they say that if you love some­one, you should set them free. And their hu­man pal showed her true colours by giv­ing them free­dom — in­stead of fear — as their finale.

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