Herd of 70 cows saved from slaughter head for Norfolk sanctuary

Irish dairy herd Image copyright Catriona Lowry
Image caption The farmer feared the elderly cows would be slaughtered if she sold them

A retiring farmer has managed to save her herd of 70 cows from slaughter in Ireland and arrange for them to be rehomed at a sanctuary in Norfolk.

Animal lovers raised 9,000 euros to help Jill Smith, from Cork, ship her dairy herd to Hillside Animal Sanctuary, following her public appeal.

She said: "They gave me a life, and I wanted the end of theirs to be peaceful. I couldn't believe people cared so much about my cows.

"Fluffy kittens, maybe, but not cows."

Many of the hundreds of animals at the sanctuary in Frettenham, near Norwich, come from the farming industry.

The rescue centre recently took in 63 cattle from Derbyshire after their retiring owner - a vegetarian farmer - like Mrs Smith, could not bear for them to be killed.

Image copyright Catriona Lowry
Image caption Farmer Jill Smith said goodbye to some of her beloved cows earlier this week

"I might have been able to sell a few, but I wanted them to stay together, and because of their ages sadly most would have gone to the abattoir," Mrs Smith said.

Charlie's Equine Rescue in County Wexford supported Mrs Smith in her quest to save her herd and half of the Irish dairy cattle arrived at the Norfolk sanctuary this week.

The charity began crowdfunding to raise the 6,500 euros to ship the working dairy herd and pay the vet fees.

However, supporters topped the 9,000 euro mark in less than one month.

The surplus will be given to Hillside to help with the costs of keeping the cattle.

Image copyright Catriona Lowry
Image caption The fundraising campaign was supported by well-known Irish musician Sharon Shannon

"Before they left, the local rector came and said a few prayers," Mrs Smith said.

"She said they were on the final journey of their lives."

Thirty cows and seven calves arrived in Norfolk and "bounded in to the field", Hillside's owner Wendy Valentine said.

Image copyright Hillside Animal Sanctuary
Image caption Some of the cows arrived at the sanctuary earlier this week

The rest, together with the farmer's sheep, will be shipped at a later date.

Catriona Lowry, from the equine centre that raised the funds, said: "This is historic as no Irish herd has ever left Ireland to live out their remaining years in a sanctuary."

It marked the start of a "happy ending for a dairy herd who worked so hard for an owner who always had a dream that they would retire with her one day", she added.

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