The National Trust’s MyFarm team at Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire have been eagerly awaiting the foaling of Queenie, the only Shire Horse mare at Wimpole for weeks now.
As over 800 people or groups of people saw, Queenie went into her much anticipated labour. At 11.45pm she gave birth to a beautiful filly foal. Although she had a perceptible heartbeat when she was born she was not breathing. Emma, horse manager at Wimpole Farm, tried hard and long to get her to breathe with the help of farmer manager Richard Morris. A vet was on the phone throughout, talking the team through the procedures.
None of our efforts could save her and she peacefully slipped away a few minutes after her birth.
Richard said: “As you can imagine, we are all devastated by this awful and unexpected outcome. Although watchers of the foaling on the webcam saw the true, grim realities of animal husbandry this in no way belittles the personal sense of tragedy and loss we are all feeling. This bitter disappointment is tempered only with the fact that the filly foal did not suffer at all.”
As part of the National Trust’s MyFarm experiment, the birth was broadcast live over the internet. The project, which started in May, aims to reconnect people with the realities of life on a working, commercial farm allowing them to effectively become a farmer. The MyFarm Farmers can discuss and make decisions on every aspect of the farm: the crops grown, livestock, the new facilities to be invested in and the machinery to be used, much like a real life version of Farmville, the popular Facebook game.
As one MyFarm farmer commenting on the website just after the birth said: “I’m so sorry everyone. That was awful to watch, but I guess this is the reality of farm life sometimes. I felt so helpless watching the efforts to save her.”
Richard continued: “It was a huge decision for us to do a live broadcast of the birth. There was never a guarantee that the foaling would be straight forward and unfortunately, this proved to be the case. But we didn’t want to hide people from the risks involved – it’s fundamental to the purpose of this project – to reconnect people with the realities of farming to allow the possibility of lows as well as highs.”
In the morning, Queenie was doing well. She was turned out into her paddock to get some fresh air and Emma is speaking to the vet to find out the best way of stopping the milk production.
As Queenie is a fit and healthy mare, and due to it being prime horse breeding season, the team is keen that she gets back to the stallion again in approximately three weeks to see if she can become pregnant once more. There is no reason to believe that Queenie won’t foal successfully in the future.