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To Liven Up That Millionth Zoom, Call In The Livestock

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We had some special guests turn up at our editorial meeting earlier this week. Not BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music.

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EVIE STONE, BYLINE: Are you looking at the screen, D (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Who's joining us?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I'm looking at a goat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Laughter).

SIMON: We were Zoom-bombed - or you could say gate-crashed - by goats.

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NED WHARTON, BYLINE: See if they have any story ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Right? Exactly (laughter).

DOT MCCARTHY: My name is Dot McCarthy, and I'm a farmer.

SIMON: Ms. McCarthy is from Lancashire, England. Her farm full of goats, sheep and chickens was also a bucolic spot for weddings and rustic overnight stays. But the pandemic devastated their business.

Dot McCarthy had just taken over Cronkshaw Fold Farm and knew she had to find new sources of revenue.

MCCARTHY: Emma, who works for me, was like, what else can we do? And I said, hey, you know what would be funny? Everybody's really bored on the video calls. What about if we let people, like, rent the goats for five minutes so they just can appear in the video calls? So I just wrote the goat profiles, put some pictures up, put it on the website, and I put a post on Facebook, like, hey, you want to book a goat for a video call? And I just put Emma's email address at the bottom, like, if you want to book, email Emma. And then I went to bed. And I woke up in the morning. I had all these missed calls from Emma, like, what have you done? I've got 200 emails in my inbox.

SIMON: Turns out, people just can't get enough of her goats. For the last year, from sunup to half past 9 in the evening, she and her associates have chased the goats to run the farm to beam their fuzzy mugs to Zoom meetings, everywhere from Russia to China, Australia and the U.S. At just five pounds - or about seven bucks, no pun intended - for a guest appearance by goats, the farmers pulled in close to $70,000.

Cronkshaw Fold Farm lets you choose your own goat.

MCCARTHY: So the way our booking system works, the website is kind of like a menu. It's like LinkedIn for goats or Tinder for goats or Bumble for goats or whatever. Like, each goat's got their own, like, personality profile. So you can choose your favorite goat, and then when you book, you get a particular goat.

SIMON: There's Lola, who's described as a problem head-butter. Lisa is more Zen. Sebastian, who has velvet ears, is said to have a genuine interest in whatever you have to say. And there's a goat named Lulu. She seems sharp.

MCCARTHY: Lulu is a little feisty one. Anyone tries to go over to the hay rack in front of her or tries to get in her way - she's got really tiny horns, but they're really, really sharp. So she, like, stabs them. They're like, get out of my way. This is my food - very domineering for just a tiny little creature.

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SIMON: There is not - it was humiliating even to ask - a goat named Scott.

MCCARTHY: No, no, Scott's. Not at the moment, anyway. Maybe he could have an honorary goat named after him (laughter).

SIMON: You know, maybe it's just as well not to get too attached. Dot McCarthy reminds us that hers is a working farm. So Zoom while you can.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.