That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Antony Thomas (30), aka Keepingcowsmoovin, from Cornwall, UK, in this week’s Career Focus series.
“Farming is in my blood on both sides of my family as far back as anyone can remember.
I remember being as young as four, following cows up the road after they had finished morning milking while my dad/grandad led from the front.
They milked a small herd of 80 or so, and my sister, our cousins and I were always encouraged to get involved. For as long as I can remember, I have loved cows.
It started as a young lad on my dad’s lap in a tractor and watching my grandad milk cows. My journey through farming has led me to develop a passion for looking after cows’ hooves daily.
I have always had a passion for agriculture, but it increased massively when I worked on a dairy farm in my early 20s.
The farm manager and owner were both hugely passionate about cow comfort and fuelled my passion for the dairy industry and farming as a whole.
Cattle hoof trimmer
I do not currently farm, but I carved a career in the agricultural industry as a cattle hoof trimmer, and now I run my own business.
My primary responsibilities are lameness management on multiple dairy and beef herds in my area.
I do my best to help all my customers reduce their lameness via routine trimming using the wide model level 4 method and the Dutch method run by Francy Burns from Eko Hoof Care, out with you guys in Ireland.
Our main objective is to train our farmers to detect early lameness or use regular mobility scorers to accurately detect the early signs of lameness.
We then run routine trims at dry-off and 60-100 days post-calving to keep cows as productive as possible.
Typical working day
A typical day looks something like this, so I wake up and have a coffee… always!
Then, I leave home between 5.30 and 6.30 am and then set off on journeys of anything up to an hour or so.
Then, I pick up a co-worker en route, and we trim anything from 40-100+ cows.
They are mainly routine trims with a sprinkling of lameness within them which tend to be the things I showcase on my social media platforms as they generally spark the public’s interest the most.
Then we wash off, disinfect and either go to another farm, or I head home and go to the gym.
I work within Cornwall and Devon and cover a radius of up to 75-100km. I completed the Dutch Diploma nine years ago and the RAU level 4 more recently in February 2020.
Links with Ireland
I speak with many Irish hoof trimmers and order most of my materials through Irish companies. Also, I am on the National Association of Cattle Foot Trimmers (NACFT) with Francy Burns, who runs the Dutch Diploma and multiple other skill-level courses in Ireland.
I started my cattle as a cattle foot trimmer by accident nine years ago when the hoof trimmer on the farm, where I was employed became a farm manager and stopped trimming. So, it just so happened that I took over from him.
It was, in a way, a case of me being in the right place at the right time, and it was the best decision I have ever made.
My passion for the industry and bovine welfare has grown day-in-day-out ever since that day.
As I mentioned, I am active on social media and post under the Keepincowsmoovin handle on TikTok and Instagram and then Keeping Cows Moving on Facebook and YouTube for my new longer-form content.
I post content about my day-to-day goings-on, so sometimes, a satisfying routine trim.
Then, sometimes it might be an unexpected discovery in a cow’s hoof or some sort of stone that has caused insane amounts of damage. Other than that, I post hoof baths and general farm things that I find interesting.
YouTube is my smallest follower-wise at under 1,000, but I have over 36,000 Facebook likes, over 45,000 Instagram followers and just under 735,000 on TikTok, where my content has gained over 20 million likes.
The location of my followers, especially on TikTok, is vast and includes Africa, Asia, America and Europe mostly.
I doubt there is a country that has access to the app where I do not have at least one follower in. It blows my mind how it has all happened.
I think people find it interesting mainly because it is a world that most people are so far away from.
I try and tie in my videos with appropriate music. For example, choosing a sad song for a video on a sad which tells people how they should feel from the first moment.
Then, if I have a great trim of a healed hoof, I select an upbeat track to again show my viewers that it is a positive, happy moment. It helps people understand the story of the cow and exactly what is going on.
I think that tying in music with content can spark engagement and, of course, posting things that people more than likely have never seen. The fact cows get ‘pedicures’ is something that most people seem to be surprised by.
I want to take the power out of the hands of the anti-farm community by showcasing what we do to the widest of audiences.
I get 20 million views a month across my social platforms, and 99.999% of the reaction I get from that is hugely positive. It takes the power out of the hands of the extremists by showcasing the reality of what 99% of the farming community does for their animals.
Looking ahead, I potentially have a new crush coming in the next twelve months to run alongside my current one.
I hope it will streamline my business and stop farmers from occasionally waiting so long to have me come in and tend to their animals.
In five years, I see myself still crazy busy trimming cows but hopefully giving myself a tad more free time to spend with my family.
I still want to showcase to the world the remarkable things farmers do for their animals.
Also, hopefully, I will run a few more training days and work with dairy buyers to demonstrate the quality of animal welfare we can have with up-to-date hoof care protocols throughout the UK. All in all, my ultimate goal is zero lameness.
If you love what you do- jump in with two feet and go for it. Farming is not a job; it is a massive lifestyle choice, and your job has to be your passion!
Future of agriculture: I see the supermarkets taking a closer look at welfare and bringing in stricter protocols on how we manage farms. Hoof care will become a must-have and will have to be done by a fully qualified and checked hoof trimmer.”
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