Firstly, I just want to thank you all so much for your ongoing support. I am overwhelmed by how quickly my social media accounts have grown and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without you all.
So thank you.
If you’re new to It’s A Country Life, then welcome and I hope you enjoy this post.
I think a lot of you by now will have seen from Instagram I spent my Sunday cuddling cows. It was the best.
What you may or may not know, is that this was a welcome reunion for me (okay not a reunion exactly, as they were a totally different bunch of cows but still a reunion of sorts all the same…).
If you read my last post on my work life at the moment you will know I work in an office currently, however this time last year I would have been whizzing around the farm on my bike locking cows away and setting up for the following morning’s milking.
I spent 7 months out in New Zealand from September 2015 to April 2016 and found myself milking cows on top of riding show jumpers on my first farm, which I never thought I would be doing!
It was certainly not in the initial job description of Au-pair and groom/rider, however me being me – I got stuck in and embraced it. I loved it.
My first farm was an 80 bale rotary shed, milking around 1500 cows twice a day in Rakaia.
I spent just over a month here and then decided to move about an hour or so down the road and found myself being asked to help out on a friend’s farm during an evening spent jet skiing on his irrigation pond – classic kiwi custom.
This farm was a little smaller, milking around 1100 cows, on a 64 bale rotary, milking twice a day still however this time I was also doing calf rearing.
If any of you have been to New Zealand, rural New Zealand – you will know that cows are everywhere. There are about 11,400 dairy farms in New Zealand, and about 11,800 dairy herds, totaling over 4.6 million cows (getaheadnz.co.nz). If not I whole-heartedly encourage you to go an experience it. It is the most stunning breath taking place I have ever been.
My third farm was the one I spent the majority of my time.
I lived in here, in a lovely little house shared with two Irish university placement students. Being the only girl had its ups and downs at the same time.
I was referred to as the Queen of the farm, a title I most definitely embraced.
This farm was a little larger than the second at a 68 bale rotary, with about 1200 cows. The farm was so much fun and we had a great team.
The only downside to this farm, was they didn’t have automatic cup removal and teat spray, a luxury I had been used to on my last two farms.
Although, it quickly became my favorite, especially on a boiling hot Summer’s afternoon.
In the morning cups on was the place to be – the constant fast paced nature of it kept you warm at 3:30 am when the cool mountain air was still blanketing the farm.
Calving had finished by this point, and all the calves were now living outside in the paddocks causing havoc around the farm, this meant no more calf rearing for me. However it was approaching AI time, something which had always fascinated me.
I got to experience it all first hand, working closely with the vets taking in as much information as my little brain could handle.
Although that being said, if any of you have also experienced AI within the dairy industry, cups off is NOT the place to be in this situation.
The AI stand in my shed was just before cups off, and let me tell you I may has well have worn a wet suit, goggles and a swimming hat!
I don’t know what it is about it, but as soon as the vets remove that rod, it is like a waterfall.
Now, I was never one to squeal or moan if I got caught in the line of fire, being a country girl through and through it never bothered me.
It’s nature in my eyes BUT this was something else.
When I got home, I was gutted to leave the country, farm life and cows behind.
The novelty of ‘sleep ins’ wore off very quickly, when I came to terms with no more early morning sun rises, no more morning milkings or mornings spent getting cows in from the paddocks, setting up breaks and shutting cows away all before the majority of the world have even stirred.
There really is nothing like it.
So what about the farming field trip?
Last Sunday, James, myself and a few friends of ours went to visit their friend’s farm in rural, Royal Berkshire.
The farm is a mixture of dairy, beef and arable and my goodness was it the most idyllic, peaceful place to be.
Having never met these people, I was trying to contain my excitement for being reunited with cows for fear of embarrassing myself.
Luckily, James and I are very similar and he was feeling the same.
Presented with an very impressive and quintessentially British Plowman's lunch which to say it was totally delicious would still be an understatement!
However, even with all of the food on display myself and James were just itching to get outside and explore the farm and see the dairy in action.
For me, it was particularly interesting because I have only experienced dairy farming in New Zealand (so far!) and so to see British dairy farming first hand was an excellent experience.
Plus I have also been asked to produce an article for popular farming magazine Farmland on the difference between dairy farming here compared to New Zealand, so it gave me lots of useful information and inspiration to help me sit down and come up with something (hopefully amazing!) for that.
After we had all stuffed ourselves silly at lunch, we were taken on a tour of the farm. I can imagine, living in the same place day in and day out it is easy to forget how lucky you are and the novelty can wear off, but for us seeing it all for the first time it was beautiful.
A truly perfect picture of the British countryside. The farm is managed by 22 year old Jamie, with the help of his fiance Sally (the lovely couple we went to visit) and one other chap who works as an assistant.
The farm is 1800 acres, with 300 milking cows (Holstein Frisians) and 150 beef cows (Angus, with a couple of Belgian Blues).
Milk is supplied to M&S and the farm is fully sustainable, having won the Plan A award for self-sustainability from M&S, as well as quality milk awards in 2003 and the best dairy farm in the South of England in 2016.
As if it doesn’t sound good enough already, on our tour of the farm we were shown these gorgeous fishing lakes, nestled within the glorious farmland. You may have seen pictures already if you follow Quintessentially Country’s blog...
I can just imagine sitting out there on a Summer’s evening with the BBQ and music going, a few beers for the boys and some Pimms for us girls with the dogs running around it sounds perfect doesn’t it?
It is safe to say the farm is stunning, and it was so refreshing talking to Jamie about dairy farming, and to hear it from a young, British perspective.
On our way back up to the hub of the farm, it just about time for milking and so we headed into the sheds to say hello to some cows – you may have seen this picture already. I am totally in my element.
Jamie was kind enough to take us in to the parlor to see how they milk. I was like a little kid in a sweet shop! The smell of chemicals, milk and cows (and shit) bought back so many memories!
The dairy is a 12/24 herringbone parlor, totally different to what I am used to milking on, however my understanding is that the vast majority of parlors here use herringbones compared to a rotary for various reasons; herd size being one.
I didn’t really know what differences to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised to be honest, that there weren’t many at all in terms of the practice.
The main difference seems to be the management of the cows. I had hold back a little squeal when I noticed even the clusters and cups were the same!
Home sweet home.
Not wanting to derive the poor lad of his afternoon milking duties, we ventured off to go and meet some of the calves.
We met a gorgeous Belgian Blue 5 month old calf, who is definitely a mummy’s girl, she was very shy around us but around Sally she was so sweet and affectionate.
I took myself off to offer my attention to some more appreciative little darlings.
Although Bally the Belgian Blue, just couldn’t help herself when she saw the others having cuddles and came over for a lick!
The day wasn’t all cows though – back at the house we devoured the eton mess I had made (recipe here) and decided to head to the pub to finish the evening.
I want to thank Sally & Jamie for being such amazing hosts, we had a wonderful time and are looking forward to our next visit.
Until next time,