Travel.P #6 – My view on Dairy Farming

“The most powerful bond we know of is the bond between mother and child, and we break it in order to make “comfort foods” for ourselves” Michael Schwarz” 

Neal D. Barnard

Alarm ringing at 4:30 a.m. Turning the alarm off, turning a small light next to the bed on, and moving back to the center of my bed.

Staring at the ceiling for a minute I try to find motivation for the day. No proper motivation found, but I am slowly leaving my warm and comfortable bed. No noises, everyone is still sleeping. It is my turn today to get the cows in. I hope it won’t be too cold. Moving in just my soccer-shorts and warm socks into the cold garage where my dirty clothes are. After putting my clothes on and my warm feet into the cold wallies from outside the door, I make my way to the bike shed, next to the fire wood, that keeps me nice and warm during the evenings.

Trying to start the bike, successful after the 3 attempt I ride out of the gate right onto the road to the shed, attended by stars high above me. It is freezing cold. My light shows me the way to the shed. Everything else is black. Arriving at the shed I try to leave the bike going and turn the light in the shed on. Short after that the birds start waking up and making noise, cheaping around, slowly louder and louder. Good morning guys, I think. I hop back on my bike through the gate next to the yard, while I try to remember where the cows are. On which of the 20 paddocks. Making sure the right gates are open at the yard, I make my way to the paddock where the cows stayed overnight. I open the gate, enter the paddock still no view of the cows. After 100 meters on the paddock I see black shades appear and stop at the thin fence that we put up yesterday after the second milking in the afternoon. I remove the fence and the cows start walking to the shed. I am still very tired and lean on the handle of my bike while I watch the 650 cows passing me. Some faster, some slower. I turn my bike off and watch the stars for a bit until the last cow passed me. Slowly warmth is coming to my feet and fingertips. Driving around and checking that every cow left I follow the cows and push them gently into the yard. I have to leave my bike and move my arms to make sure they hurry up a bit.

Half of the platform is already covered in cows, my coworker Fad already started to milk. I hurry up and close the gate behind the last cow, climb the fence and push the cows tighter together by one big pipe on wheels in the yard. After that I open a gate to let the milked cows escape the second part of the yard circle. I also open a new paddock where we put the fences up yesterday. After that I join Fad and make sure that the cups are properly off, when the cow is done with milking. The sun is rising in my back and it is slowly getting warmer. I am not scared of the cows anymore and handle them with care and respect. Before they leave the point to exit the rotating platform, I spray the tits to safe them from infections. The milking continuous calm, just the normal complications, some cows are bitches and just like to provoke you. I like that they are all different, even if we have some bitches in between the nice ones. Part of the game. When the sun arose, I watched the cows entering their new fresh paddock with long green grass. Some are so exited that they start jumping and running into their new paddock covered with fresh food for the morning. After milking and shutting the last cow away, I grabbed the powerful hoses and started cleaning the shed, fad cleaned the yard. I feel like a little firefighter, just that I have to remove poo, haha. Everything was covered in poo, so it takes another half an hour to an hour to clean everything up. Once everything is cleaned we join Hamish, my boss, to see how many calves were born over night. I hop on the quad and put the trailer on the back. We are driving in direction of the mountains, which tops are covered under a white blanked. Every time this view gives me goosebumps. Arriving at the paddock we realize we have 8 new calves, some running around, some being licked clean by their mothers. Now the job is to start chasing the new born calves and carrying them into the trailer. Even if they are just a few hours old, they can already run fast. Dividing the calves from their mothers, who are watching helpless, I have fun tackling the calves. Never with the motivation to hurt one. After all the calves are in the trailer their mum try to help them, so they follow them. It is a horrible show, because the cows love their calves and shout after them as if they try to calm them down. The calves shout as well and have no idea what is going on. Squeezed together in a tiny trailer we bring the calves, followed by their mum to the calve shed and the mum into the yard, onto the platform to milk them separate from the rest of the cows, since we need the milk to feed the newborns. The cows are nice and don’t struggle to hard so that it is easy to milk them. We get around 20-40 liter yellow fat milk per cow at that time. After closing the new cows away on a small paddock, we have breakfast.

Sometimes calves never see the light of life and are born dead, so we put them on a pile and they get picked up by a truck, full with dead calves, driving around the farms. It is good when we had girls instead of boys, because they will add to the rest of the cows in 2 years and spend milk. Boys were sold to other companies and might end up as burgers. Dairy farming can be a cruel world. It was good for me to know that this is a part of the job and I can’t change it. We could only handle the calves with care and hang out with them sometimes in the shed. After all I had the impression that the farm where I worked was a good farm, since no one hit the cows on a bad way, or tortured them. My boss was happy to see his cows happy and having a good time. He can’t change that he had to divorce the mum from their calve, because he worked for a company, and this company expects good quality milk at a certain time. It was actually not allowed for me to drink the milk since it is theirs. They heated all the delicious milk up and destroyed it into milk powder for baby food in Asia. 20000 Liter milk per day times god know how many thousand farms there are.

In the next blog I plan to tell you about heifers, why cows are amazing animals, about never ending work weeks, me starting to get into cooking and my first tractor experience.

Another part of Travel.P Blog done. Today it’s cloudy and my week as a homeless is half way through. I wouldn’t once say that I did not have enough food during this week, and all I ate were vegetables and fruits from the trash diving from the Victoria market here in Wellington, where I will head now, to see what I will eat tomorrow. I bought a bottle of olive oil and Coconut oil, to get my fats as well as a sardine can every two days.

Today I want you to keep an eye on your posture. Make sure your shoulders are back, and your hips moved in line with your upper body. Get some core exercise by planking for 3 minutes.

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