While some farmers turn milk into vodka and others create on-farm bed and breakfasts, the family at the helm of one Morebattle farm are doing diversification a little differently.
Robert and Lucy Wilson are throwing open the gates of Cowbog Farm as part of their new venture training people to wash, blowdry, clip and titivate their cattle for competitions.
But throw some pig agility, sheep herding and lasso lessons into the bovine hairdressing mix, and you have Fluffy Moos.
Robert,41, said: “We felt more traditional diversifications like farm shops and bed and breakfasts were not going to work for us.
“So, we looked towards our skills and business and asked what we could offer and on what scale.“
The result was a unique business, which opened this summer and combines group experience days, pedigree livestock grooming and handling training.
The more light-hearted farm experience side of the business gives visitors the chance to don their boiler suits and wellies for a day and get out and about on the farm.
Tailor-made to suit the occasion, Robert and Lucy offer everything from sheep herding and pig agility, to farm obstacle courses and lassoing lessons.
Those entirely green to the world of livestock competition can also prepare and present an animal for the show ring, with teams armed with plenty of hair dye, cow decorating adhesives and a chance to “use their artistic flair”.
“For that, we’ll use cattle that has been shown a lot, are nice and calm, and have plenty of long hair to be styled,” Robert joked.
“Corporate groups and hen and stag parties are our ideal target group here. Some visitors have never set foot on a farm before and don’t know the shank from the fillet on an animal – so we’re offering them something completely different.”
The actual training days are more of a serious affair. The family, stewards of the 182-hectare farm across three generations since 1938, has around 200 head of Hereford cattle and arable crops, and more than enough experience in the show ring to share with exhibitors. Robert is an respected judge of livestock and young handler classes, and has travelled through Canada and America to see first-hand the different techniques and products used there to bring out cattle.
“I ended up doing a lot of follow up work,” he said. “So we thought if we could create a facility to cater for this kind of training, it would be beneficial, but didn’t think investing in that solely would be a good idea.
“So we are aiming to do 12 cattle training days a year, which is probably all we, and the cattle can handle, and more on-farm experience days.”
Training days guide groups, of up to 12 people, through the entire process of showing, including best practice for feeding, grooming, travelling to a show, as well as etiquette and handling.
Robert’s father Ron, secretary of the Border Union Agricultural Society for two decades until last year, and mother Joan, are both now retired, but are also on hand to welcome visitors to the newly-renovated stable block, which act as a restaurant, changing room and reception for visitors to Fluffy Moos.
For more information on the business, visit www.fluffymoos.com