Crème Brule and Hot Wheels new Ayrporte mascots after devastating barn fire

Above, Felicity Porteous poses with the bovine matriarch of Ayrporte Farms — and recent fire survivor — Whisky Hangover. Whisky's daughter, Winter, appears in background. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — Two fundraisers organized to help the fire-stricken Porteous family north of Winchester rebuild their dairy barn and acquire some new stock are going gangbusters, with family, friends and the broader agricultural community responding generously.

The Porteouses — Ian, Tracy, Bruce, Cassidy and Felicity — are striving to keep an upbeat outlook following the calamity, naming a calf born Thursday morning “Crème Brule” and a calf born soon after the Oct. 4 fire “Hot Wheels”. Many of their remaining cows have been relocated for the time being to four other farms.

Now being blamed on electrical failure, the fire destroyed Ayrporte Farms’ dairy barn and connected smaller buildings, and resulted in two silos being condemned. About half of the 45-head registered Holstein, Ayrshire and Jersey milk herd fell victim to the fire.

But a miracle emerged from the blaze after Ian and son Bruce used a high hoe to knock a fan out of one end of the barn. Four cows, which had been in the burning building for more than an hour, ran outside; while three were later put down because of intense smoke inhalation, one — Whiskey Hangover — is still alive and standing, and being treated for burns and breathing issues.


Above, Hot Wheels. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Crème Brule. Courtesy photo

“We have no idea how the four survived long enough to get out,” Tracy said, briefly becoming emotional and explaining that a mask used for house pets has been adapted to give Whiskey oxygen. “The first time she took a whole tank and you could tell it made a difference.”

Calling the miracle cow that came to Ayrporte in 2013 a “good milker and a good mama,” Tracey said she’s treating Whiskey’s burns with ointment and hoping for the best. Whiskey is pasturing at Ayrporte with 47 cows including heifers and calves.

The loss is at least partly insured. Expressing thanks for the show of support from the agricultural community, Tracy said extra funds will be welcome in the rebuilding process. While that will occur, the family has not yet made any decisions on barn styles or equipment.

One of the fundraisers for Ayrporte Farms is under the gofundme umbrella and has so far collected over $15,000 towards a $50,000 goal. This effort was organized by Bruce and Sherri Cumming of Winchester. The other event is an online auction Oct. 19-23 coordinated by friend Vanessa Durand, a sheep farmer based at Kemptville.

Donations from businesses and individuals have been arriving at a breathtaking pace, Durand said, estimating 170 items worth about $20,000 have been collected from 105 participants. Donations will be accepted right up the first day of the auction.

The objective, she said is to at least double the value over the five-day sale on Support. Due to the popularity and respect of Ian and Tracy within the Eastern Ontario farming community, there has been little trouble gathering sale items, with most donors seeking out the organizing team in order to take part.

Many of the items reflect the agricultural nature of the cause, Durand said. They include naming rights for twin calves from Payneside Farms, an embryo, and 12 round wrapped hay bales. Someone from the Central U.S. donated a farm podcast ad and a Saskatchewan supporter offered a custom farm logo.

“Pre-Covid, we would have gathered at the Joel Steele Community Centre (Winchester), had a few drinks and raised money to help them rebuild,” said Bruce Cumming. “Given the situation we are living, we’re asking all of you to raise a glass and make a donation.”

Supporters include Mike Bernard who tossed in $100: “Ian and Tracy are the best neighbours one could ever wish for. My donation is miniscule compared to the support I’ve received from the Porteous family.”

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