Travel.P #5 – Life on the Farm

In the city, we work until quitting time. On the farm, we work until the job is finished.


John Bytheway
One guy working, three are watching. I felt like a NZ road worker

I started my first day at 6:30 a.m. The first time I had to set an alarm since a long time. I had a small breakfast and put on my farm clothes. A jumpsuit out of green cotton, warm soft wellys, a shirt, a warm sweater and a cap. I was dressed warm, like my boss told me, but not warm enough, like I experienced when I started my bike and drove on it to work. Arriving at the shed I was overwhelmed by so many things I have never heard or seen in my life. Just two meters from me away, the cows stood each in between two metal bars on a round rotating platform. The platform keeps around 50 cows at once. Loud sounds of machines, cows and birds surrounded me. It smelled like poo and urine. Some walls were covered in poo, same like the floor and the platform.

Part 2 of the first picture.
‘Abbey’ in the front and my house in the background.
You can also see the hedges in the background.

The cows were facing the inside of the platform, while their odder got milked by vacuum cups from behind. During their milking, they ate a food mix, that was coming from tubes out of big container outside. It is possible to regulate the amount of food individual per cow. I told my boss who was working on the milking circle I am ready to work. So he brought me to the beginning of the circle and let me work with my house mate, which was milking very fast, considering my skill, that was zero.

Fed showed me how to handle the cups, a design where 4 cups are coming out of a round piece that was connected to a tube, that was connected to a pipe and so on through filters into a cooler of 20.000 Liters volume. As I tried myself, I was scared of the cows, my eyes were is just above their odder and I never milked a cow before. To have a huge animal, that could kick any second into your face, if there wouldn’t be a metal bar, filled me with respect.

My work flow was to lift up the milking-cup-construction until I heard a click that was to release the break of the rope the cup was connected to. This started the vacuum in my cup. Than I had to pull the cups with one hand to me, and the other hand grabbing a cup and trying to find the right front tit, than the left front and after that the two rear ones. Everything while the platform was rotating at a set speed, of course lowered to a minimum, by a small button, next to the control unit, next to the entrance of where the cows enter the platform. The cows themselves where all in a big round yard. The yard was covered in cow poo of 650 cows. The cows were pushed forward by a Pipe construction on wheels, with water coming out of the bottom to clean up the poo, that would by failure be pulled by a chains over the concrete floor. The whole yard had two gates and looked like a clock with two massive pipes. Than the cows near the rotating platform entered the from the yard, since they get taught how to enter the platform, it was usually a smooth process, until the last 20 cows. They probably had a bitchy day and simply didn’t want to get molken. So I had to jump in the yard and push them gently on by waving my arms or a firm clap on the back. After the cycle, they leave, next to the entrance. They leave backwards and get reminded to leave by water shooting in their faces near the end. The cups recognize when a cow is milked and stop their vacuum, and get pulled back by the rope to a bar next to the cow. You had to imagine everything made so that cows can’t destroy the set up. Ever been in a Zoo and had a look at the Elephant fences? Exactly like that maybe 5 centimeters smaller. But even tho, things went wrong and you had to come up with a solution.

My first couple cows, were failed completely and my colleague had to make sure that the cups weren’t sucking in the cow poo from the platform or the floor. Some where kicking at me and staring at me like I am the butcher. The kicks ended up with a loud sound against round metal bars, and the whole construction was shaking. Good to know, maybe watch my hands a bit better. Because I had no idea where the otters of the cows were I bent and try to look underneath them. Always accompanied by the rotation and urine even sometimes poo covering my hands. Because the cows didn’t know me, they were uncomfortable and some slipped their rear legs of the platform so that we had to push them back on the platform by pushing as strong as possible against their rear legs. Also there are always a couple cows that keep on kicking the cups of and have to be punished by a kick-bar.

Fir that you climb up the platform, you can stop it before by pulling a string around the platform on the height of your head. Than you grab a adjustable kick-bar (shaped like a C) and chuck one site between the belly and the leg (kind of into the hip) and the other end on top of the cows back onto her hip bones. With these the cows aren’t able to kick the cups of (of course this is not always working, so you have to take two, but than you risk the cow slipping of the platform, without her being able to move her legs).

Cows just next to my house, in the back you can see the shed.

As the days passed by, the smell left and I got used to the cows and the cows to me. Later on milking was an easy task and I could tell when they start pooing or peeing, when they started peeing I just continued and ignored them peeing around 2 liters over my arms (except ones where I got pooed on my head, luckily I wore a cap). It is simple life on the farm. Everyone smells and is covered in shit, haha. You are outside all day, and always busy. Your skin is getting used to all the environmental exposure and you start to feel healthy and alive. I remembered once that my beard got really itchy when it grew longer, but after a week it stopped.

Coming home and looking in the mirror was always funny, because you had shit everywhere over your face, and sometimes during the day I pulled a piece of cow poo out of my beard. After the early morning milking, wake up at 4 ish, we had to lock the gate of the paddock, where the cows moved after milking and had breakfast for an hour (and sleep). After breakfast I had to do some maintaining, fencing or odd other odd jobs. Always riding around on the Motorbike, and later on on the tractors.

my heavy bike

Each morning I was attended by a massive amount of stars while I was riding to work and later during the milking the sun arose over the ocean, 50 km away from our farm. First dark red, than orange and yellow. After a week, and a lot of sleep , usually as soon as there was free time, I got used to the waking up early, the language and later on I went into a routine, so that my thoughts went far far away while I was milking. It took around 2:30 hours to milk all of the 650 cows. I only once had a morning off, because I wasn’t used to real cow milk and my tummy was hurting badly. The milk is so rich and full of fat and bacteria. When I got used to it, I even shot straight from the odder in my mouth. It is completely different to any milk I ever bought out of a supermarket in my whole life and it was the best milk I ever drank in my life so far. Its smell and taste were hard to describe. I don’t eat dairy nowadays, but I would always take a bottle of this milk and neg it straight away. Just writing about it makes my mouth watering. This made me realize that what we buy in the market is just over-processed water, compared to this natural, rich milk.

So yeah this was more than I expected to write, so I guess I’ll go over to the next blog straight away, maybe after some stretches and a short break in my favorite library of Melbourne.

In the next blog I plan to tell you a morning in my life of the farm, and why I find dairy farming, like we did, is cruel.

I was thinking about summarizing books on here, that I’ve rad. Today your job is to read a chapter in your book of choice! Books are simply awesome, where people try to pack so many things, that they spent amazingly long time on, into a few pages, to inform, educate or entertain you.

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