Romance is alive and well in the Dales but forget buying jewellery, chocolates and flowers, it’s sheep and cows that turn one young lady’s head up here.
Last Christmas Victoria Verity’s boyfriend Ben bought her a couple of Texel ewes and he’s recently given her a cow.
Victoria, known as Tori to most, is 19 and loves livestock. She’s a student nurse with Forest House Veterinary Group in Bedale and aims to become a fully qualified veterinary nurse. It’s not just farm animals that she has a soft spot for either.
“So far I’ve only brought a couple of unwanted animals home with me! Two weeks after I started I managed to bring back a ginger kitten that had been run over – and last week I rescued a big English lop rabbit from the Thirsk fur and feather sale.”
She’s smitten with running her own flock but had some bad luck last year with the breed she’d been hoping to show for years to come. However, next weekend she will be back at Masham Sheep Fair with her new breed.
“I’d built up a flock of over 20 Bleu du Maines. Unfortunately they had a problem with lameness. It was very sad when I had to sell them because they were my favourite breed and I found it very hard letting them go. It’s a good crossing breed and other show people and farmers really seemed to like them when we took them to agricultural shows.
“Ben gave me a shearling and an in-lamb ewe at Christmas and so I now have three Texels. It’s a more sensible breed to have up here because they grow well as fat lambs and are good for showing.
“Masham Sheep Fair is a really lovely local show and when I used to take my Bleu du Maines everyone was so helpful, particularly Stuart Goldie who also showed the breed. I learned so much from him. I’d really like to show at the Great Yorkshire Show and at Nidderdale in the future.
“I’m also secretary of Masham YFC. Ben is chairman. Our club always has a stand at the sheep fair. Our young farmers club is really strong, regularly attracting 30-40 to every meeting. We try to make our meetings fun and interesting. Recently we had a visit to McIntyre Meats abattoir in Wensleydale. Some of our members found it pretty gruesome but I loved it.”
That’s because Tori is the eldest daughter of Mel and Natasha who tenant the 250-acre Howe Farm at Fearby, a few miles from Masham. The farm is mainly a sheep operation with 500-550 predominantly Texel X ewes and a few Mules. Mel is the fourth generation of his family to tenant the farm that belongs to the Swinton Estate.
“My great grandfather William came here in the mid-to-late 1800s and was followed by my grandfather Dennis who did a lot of showing of Beef Shorthorn cattle and Suffolk sheep. My father Kenneth would have been next in line on the tenancy but suffered with farmer’s lung and asthma and died just 54. He showed Mules. We also had dairy cows at one time but came out of milk production in 1992.
“The flock today is more or less all home-bred. We tend to keep 100 females from every year’s lambing to bring on as replacement breeding ewes. I try to buy different tups each year to ensure that the bloodlines are right. We put the pure Texel ram on to the better ewes to produce a pure lamb. Some are crossed with the Beltex tup. It puts a nice condition on if the ewes are not quite so good. We finish pretty much the lot and they all go to Thirsk livestock centre as fat lambs.”
Mel also has 20 acres of spring barley that he sells to a fellow farmer who fattens cattle. In return he is then able to buy sheep feed from I’Anson. He also looks after a herd of 20 Salers cattle that belong to a friend in the village.
Mel’s other main passion is vintage tractors. His pride and joy is his hydrostatic 1967 International and he recently took part in the Hunton Steam Gathering Charity Run.
Natasha is from Surrey originally but her parents had a holiday home in Yorkshire and ended up moving to Fearby when she was 17. She works at the local school as a teaching assistant.
“I wouldn’t swap our life for anything. Our village still has its own pub and there is a real community atmosphere. Everyone pulls together.”