Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Cow birth keeps Moyle councillor Sandra Hunter late for meeting

She's a single farmer whose skill in the political field led her to be appointed first citizen of her local council.

But the coming together of 43-year-old's Sandra Hunter's passions caused her to deliver a somewhat unique response for being late for council duties.

Rushing into a meeting of Moyle District Council, the chair apologised to other members for her 30-minute delay, explaining she was caught up helping one of her cows give birth to twin calves.

The Ulster Unionist councillor is also a full-time farmer who works alone on her 300-acre farm near Bushmills on the north coast.

Since being elected two years ago, she has been juggling both demanding roles, tending to the needs of both her animals and local residents.

"As I said when I arrived at the council meeting I had a cow calving at home," she said.

"I suppose you could say it is not the normal type of reason so I had to deliver the two female calves before 7pm and then rush to the meeting."

She has helped her cattle give birth many times but said twin calves was a fairly unusual event.

"A cow normally has one calf and I had been keeping an eye on this cow in the afternoon leading up to the meeting," she said.

"By 5pm nothing had happened and I would normally get ready at about 6pm to go to the council meeting at 7pm, but at around 6pm I suddenly noticed that the cow was having twins and I could not take a chance to leave it."

She said she had worked on the family farm with her father for more than 20 years.

When he passed away last year, she single-handedly took the reins and looks after 150 cattle and 400 sheep.

She said many consider farming "a man's job" and said her three sisters all declined to become involved in the family business.

She came home to work on the family farm in 1991 after having lived in New Zealand, and said that at the time there were very few women visible in the industry.

Ms Hunter said the numbers of female farmers has since increased.

She said she is enjoying her time as chair of the council since being elected to the post last June – but as the spring calving season will run until May, she hasn't ruled out swapping the top table of the council for the calving barn if needs be.

She admitted to taking "a bit of slagging" from her council colleagues about her job when first elected, but said they had been understanding about the unusual interruptions to council business in that time.

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