Monday, 3 March 2014

Farmer is the last to take cows swimming

A family of Scottish cattle farmers say they are the very last to maintain the ancient tradition of swimming their cows across the sea to fresh pastures.

Ian Macdonald, 82, and his family swim their cows from their croft at Staffin across to Staffainn island.

With their heads just showing above the water, it takes the animals around ten minutes to make the 150 yard crossing.

And, to ensure that nothing goes awry, one of them traditionally strips down and takes to the water to swim with the cattle.

Mr Macdonald remembers: "I pulled the short straw the first year. Swimming wasnae my thing."

From that icy teenage initiation right up until his seventies, he swam with his cows every year.

However, he now drives them across from the safety of his boat and leaves the swimming to son Callum.

The herd are moved from the mainland, 150 yards over the water to Staffainn Island each October.

This gives the main croft a chance to recover and ensures the cows get a good winter feed.

Then in January or February, when the tide is at its lowest point, the cows are driven back across to the mainland.

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