By Niamh Shackleton and William Lailey
A herd of rare miniature cows – which stand at just 3.5 ft tall – are milking the limelight.
They are thought to be the only herd in Europe with this small stature – and are known as miniature Herefords.
The cows – who are reared for their rare small size – at Chater Valley Farm in Pilton, Somerset, are owned by farmer Malcolm Gough, 66, and his wife Lesley, 54, who describe themselves as the “guardians” of the farm and surrounding land.
Malcolm said: “The main reason we decided to have miniature Hereford cows was because it is quite a small farm at only 40 acres – it’s small for a farm, but big for a house.
“On top of this, Rutland is the smallest county in the UK so it seemed rather appropriate to have small animals on a small farm in the smallest county.
“Lesley and I always had a vision of having a home inland so we could be close to animals so when Chater Valley Farm became available, it fulfilled our dreams beautifully.”
Initially, as miniature Herefords didn’t exist in the UK, Malcolm started the herd by purchasing miniature Hereford embryos from a breeder in Canada and then implanting the fertilised eggs into standard Hereford heifers which became their surrogate mothers.
Eventually, after ten years experience of breeding, Malcolm is now able to offer naturally-conceived miniature Herefords from the bulls and cows he has on the farm.
They are especially popular among smallholders – and people who don’t necessarily want much the heavier full size cattle on their land, and all the cattle handling complications that come with that.
Malcolm added: “We have bred nearly 50 miniature calves so we are doing our bit to establish them into the UK and help others to start their own herds of miniature Herefords – they’re very popular in North America and Australasia so that’s one reason why we breed them.”
With the calves of the miniature Herefords being around the size of a medium-sized dog, Malcolm has found people are quite surprised when they see the cows.
He said: “People’s first reactions to seeing the cows is quite shocked as there aren’t really any miniature Herefords in the UK.
“People have an idea of what they expect the cows to look like and the size they’ll be.
“Because this breed of cow is so docile, people will find themselves getting very fond of them very quickly.”
The cows, which are pasture fed, are said to actually help the environment through improving soils that capture carbon dioxide.
As well as this, it’s said pasture fed animals produce better quality meat and milk.
Malcolm added: “Farming is an important part of what we do, but as time as passed we have really developed into a retreat as well – for example my wife is an equine therapist and I’m a professional sound therapist.
“We’re here to help people be the best and happiest they can be, and the natural backdrop of the farm is really conducive to that work.”