Prince William and the quake cows
On November 14, 2016, the most famous animals in the world were two hereford cows and one calf on the Millton family’s Clarence Valley farm.
The trio were left stranded on small knob of land when the rest of their paddock disintegrated around them.
They were soon found by TV news cameras and their pictures went round the world, not that the Milltons knew it. Like much of the Clarence community, all their communications were down.
When they were finally resurrected, more than 400 emails were waiting from friends and well-wishers who saw their cows on TV. One stood out. It was from a private secretary of Prince William, and read: ‘‘Your friends in England are thinking of you’’.
Global television exposure no doubt alerted the palace to the cows’ plight, but the message’s origins traced back to 2005, when the prince visited the Milltons’ farm during a tour of New Zealand. The experience had, clearly, stayed with him.
A year on, the three cows, safely rescued, are all still on farm. ‘‘Pride of place’’, Derrick Millton said, but he insists there is no preferential treatment. The bull is going out next week.
‘‘The cows were a diversion,’’ he said, ‘‘A happy diversion . . . The focus was on [them] and I think it was psychologically a good thing.’’
Behind the cows has been a mammoth recovery. The earthquake decommissioned about 80 hectares of the Milltons’ farm, buried tracks and destroyed about 10 kilometres of fencing and 5km of water supply pipes.
On the first day, Millton ordered thousands of dollars worth of materials to replace what was broken. In the six weeks after the earthquake, more than 100 people helped to get the farm operational again, Millton said.
‘‘The help that our Clarence Valley community received was overwhelming.
‘‘Volunteers and donations of food arrived from all over the country to help with farm repairs . . . We made great progress as a result.’’
Much of the hard work was done by winter, but an earthquake is about more than physical repairs. The cold weather brought some dark times.
‘‘We got into real low patch,’’ Millton said.
The Milltons have recovered, but there is an inescapable permanence in what happened to them.
And there are cows, who have been immortalised in print. Moo, Moo and the Little Calf Too, by Jane Millton, Derrick’s wife, shot up the children’s best sellers lists after its release in March. Moo and Moo and Can You Guess Who?, published last month, follows a new generation of earthquake survivors. There are worse legacies for a disaster recovery than three celebrity cows capitalising on their fame.
Two cows and a calf on the Millton farm became world famous a year ago when they were marooned by the earthquake