goat farm
© CRONKSHAW FOLD FARM
Ms McCarthy said hiring out goats, including Sebastian and Lulu (above), is easier than selling manure
A farmer who was half kidding when she suggested hiring out her goats out for Zoom meetings during lockdown has said making £50,000 shows it was no joke.

Dot McCarthy, from Rossendale in Lancashire, said the number of people paying for "show goat" Lola and others to butt in on calls had been "insane".

She said it had kept Cronkshaw Fold Farm open and staff in work and had also paid for improvements to the site.

She added that it was "more fun" than selling manure to make ends meet.

Dot McCarthy

The global success has allowed Ms McCarthy to keep her staff on full-time in lockdown
The farm, which featured on BBC One's The Great Staycation, usually supplements its income by hosting weddings and educational visits, but coronavirus restrictions have closed that side of the business down.

As a result, the 32-year-old, who took over the business from her mother about five years ago, came up with the idea of hiring out her flock to brighten video calls by briefly having them butt in as a surprise.

The service, which she described as the "greatest of all time", sees people pay £5 to hire a goat, who then joins a scheduled meeting via the video-conferencing service's invitation system with a little help from farm staff.

She said it was the "shock of my life" how what "started as a joke" became such a roaring success.

She said she "just put it on the website" to "give people a laugh" in April 2020, at the start of the first lockdown, and "then went to bed", but woke up to 200 emails, requesting their presence on calls.
goat
© CRONKSHAW FOLD FARM
A family books Margaret for a weekly call to catch up on the nanny's news
Her goats have now appeared in virtual meetings all over the world, including in the US, Russia, China and Australia, with some people donating far more than the £5 charge for an appearance.

She said they mostly appeared briefly, but one family books one of her other goats, Margaret, every Saturday morning for a longer catch-up.

"They call her Marg and she is one of the family now," she said.

"They love to hear her news - from her first hot date to news that she is expecting."

She said her team had struggled to keep up with the number of calls, but the success had seen her buck the trend of furloughing staff and allowed her to keep her two employees on full-time.

The money will also go towards converting the farm to renewable power to improve its carbon footprint.

She added that she much prefers the calls to selling manure, which she has also taken to doing to raise revenue.

"It's way easier and more fun," she said.