Smokey’s Story – Posted in: Follow the Herd

There are many wonderful animals at Ahimsa Dairy Foundation. Gentle honey coloured cows, giant oxen with majestic horns or newborn calves materialising before our eyes into playful and curious little creatures. It’s a unique farm with unique animals and each and every one of them has a story to tell.

But for me, there is one animal with a tale a little more remarkable than any other. The name of that wonderful animal is Smokey.

Smokey was born in a field in the North of Ireland nestled between the rolling green of the Craigantlet hills and the choppy waters of Belfast Lough. Into a herd of speckled red and white Shorthorn cows, was born Smokey, a black and white anamolie. As the legend goes, a Fresian Bull from the adjoining farm had ploughed through several fences to get to Smokeys mother. When the deed was done her pregnancy went undetected until Smokey made his surprise appearance nine months later. The first miracle Smokey performed was to save the life of his mother, who upon his unplanned appearance was moved from the Beef herd into the permanent breeding herd where she went on to mother many more beautiful calves.

Smokey was born in a Camphill Community. Over 100 acres of land shared by families and differently-abled residents, a small herd of cattle and three noisy pigs. The farm work, all done by hand by a small team of people, followed a gentle rhythm and the animals played a key role in community life. Never the less, like clockwork each month, one animal would go for slaughter to feed that community. When Smokey reached 3 years old his time had come.

By that time I had been working on that farm with Smokey for a year. He was a friend to me and the residents alike. Someone or other could often be found stopping to pat him on the head or feed him a bit of hay, an apple from the orchard. The thought of him ending his beautiful life on a plate was unbearable so I approached the farm manager and he agreed to sell him to me if I found him a suitable home. Three anxiety filled months and several thousand pounds later Smokey arrived at the Ahimsa Farm. The plan was to offer Smokey a home for life, asking nothing in return. But the second miracle of Smokeys life is that he has become the best working ox that Ahimsa now have. Smokey is miraculous to me because never in his life was he shown the degree of affection that Ahimsa cows are brought up with but regardless of that he has always had a gentleness in him that has only grown since he moved here. Smokey’s teammate is Gautama, the first male calf born on the Ahimsa farm when it was at Common Work in Kent. Two oxen with such different starts in life brought together under yoke with a brilliant future ahead of them.

The ox programme at Ahimsa is just getting started.

And I am honoured to work alongside Smokey once more now as one of his trainers, to be a part of his incredible journey.