By Kate Hill
An enormous pet steer has become South Australia’s most unconventional animal fundraiser with his owner using his sizeable star power to boost the coffers of local charities.
Three years ago, the 186cm-tall Big Moo was peacefully eating grass in a Glencoe paddock in the South East before an online story questioning whether he was ‘Australia’s biggest steer’ shot him to international fame.
Suddenly, owner Jo Vine and her pet steer were thrust into the spotlight, invited to appear on national television shows Today and The Project and even scoring celebrity visits from Dr Chris Brown. However, the Vines were inundated with requests from people across Australia who wanted to witness Big Moo’s sheer size for themselves.
“Every day we get people asking if they can come and see Moo,” Jo says.“There are big steers around, but Big Moo has something special, he just loves people. We feel like he belongs to everybody.”
An enterprising Jo devised a highly unconventional way to give Big Moo’s multitudes of fans the time they deserved, while helping support local charities. Enter the Cow Pat Lottery and Moo View days.
Big Moo’s bowel movements have become hot property in Jo’s entertaining Cow Pat Lottery, where people buy a patch of land and patiently await the outcome. A poo by Big Moo in the right patch determines the winner.
“He generally has a great sense of timing,” says Jo, with a laugh. “But last time he took three and a half hours to poop. Everyone had packed up and gone home.”
‘Moo View’ days, where as many as 100 people pay a small fee to wander through the Glencoe paddock to grab a selfie with Big Moo for the family album, are also held a few times a year.
Through their efforts, the Vines have raised thousands of dollars for Mt Gambier’s Riding for the Disabled group, which horse-lover Jo says does valuable work for the local community.
“I wanted it to be local. I’m a horsy person and I really believe in what they do,” she says.
The Vines have also donated money towards the Heart Kids campaign by Georgie Guess, a young Mt Gambier woman with congenital heart disease.
Three years on, Big Moo’s fame shows no signs of flagging. The affable nine-year-old steer now has 2500 fans on Facebook, has spawned his own hat line and has also picked up sponsorships from animal health businesses to manage his health problems.
Big Moo’s size is due to gigantism, a condition caused by an overload of growth hormone by the pituitary gland, and his continued growth causes stress on his joints. Once Big Moo stops enjoying it, Jo said her beloved steer will be retired from public life.
“It’s all about him. He loves the attention and engaging with people but we always know when he’s done. We love him to bits and we want what’s best for him,” she says.
Don’t mention the word ‘sausages’ around Jo, who says the steer she hand-raised from a small calf will live out his life peacefully at Glencoe.
Being custodian of a famous bovine has its moments though.
A midwife at Mt Gambier Hospital, Jo says there has been more than one woman huffing and puffing on the delivery table to look up and exclaim, ‘I know you – you own Big Moo!’
“The steer is famous,” she laughs, “I’m just the midwife.”
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