Week one of Dairy Work Done and Dusted

Thursday was just as exhausting as I expected it to be.  It started with the morning milking at 5:30 am, followed by breakfast and then straight to tires.   The cows were a little weird in the morning, pooping more and extra fidgety, apparently that happens sometimes.  We drove up to the washout (where the cows are wintered) and picked up another truck and trailer load of car tires and drove it down to the drain.  We finished throwing them into the trench while Owner tied them together and covered them in plastic.  We finished the row by around 11:30 am and Owner used his tractor to fill rocks and dirt on top of them.  My classmate and I took the dog, Pippie, down to the river because there wasn’t anything that we could actually do at that point.

The river is gorgeous.  The water is crystal clear and cool.  It is low now because of the drought, but we can see how high it usually gets, so it is also deep and clean.  There are trout that live in it and we saw a few juvenile fish in the shallows.  Pippie chased sticks across it, but we didn’t go swim because it wasn’t quite warm enough to be worth it.  We stayed down there for about 30 minutes before heading up to the house to grab lunch because we didn’t want to end up missing it.  After eating we headed back to the drain and found Owner and the farmer building up a bank at the end using the enormous truck tires that were too heavy for us to actually lift.

Once that was finished, we put the unused tires back on the trailer and drove them over to the other drain that needs to be made and emptied them out.  I am so sick of moving tires at this point it’s not even funny.  We had enough time to have a cup of tea and the farmer to grab something to eat before we had to head down and get the cows.

The afternoon milking was worse than the morning milking in terms of having the cows pooping on us (afternoons usually are), and it took us longer than normal to get them through.  They also were headed up the hill again, so we had to wash everything down and then drive them across the road, which took extra time.  By the time we got home it was 6:oo pm, over 12 hours of work put in.

Yesterday wasn’t as bad.  We arrived for the morning milking a bit late because there was a house being moved down the main highway from Palmerston North to Ashurst.  That’s correct, an entire house.  Well, to be fair the house was cut in half, but it was still an extra wide load that could not be passed.  We positioned ourselves across the road from where the cows were going to cross and waited for them to arrive.  When they finally did we crossed them as quickly as possible.  This time there were a couple of cars waiting for the cows to cross, so I guess they will get to explain to their employers that they were late because of cows.  Things that only happen in rural areas.  The cows had a very good morning, only a few pooped in the shed and we were able to move them through quickly and get to breakfast around 8:00 am.  I did get my hand kicked into a pole, causing quite a nice bruise, but that was my own fault for not moving fast enough and reading her warning signs.  The farmer stayed down and fed out some balage so my classmate and I took the chance to grab a nap.

Apparently the owner was away on a fishing trip so no tires were thrown!  After sleeping for about an hour, the farmer showed us the computer program that they use to track the cows.  Information from the herd testing is stored and used to show which cows are problems and which cows are good producers.  There are far too many “dogs” in this herd.  Several with insanely high SSC’s and a few that are producing fewer than 5 litres of milk per day (which is the minimum amount of milk production for dry cow therapy to work).  We discussed ways that we would change the farm if it were up to us and not the Owner and his pocket book (and extreme reluctance to spend any money on the farm).  We came to the conclusion that the only solution was to beat the owner about the head and shoulders with a Clue-By-Four, possibly one with nails in it, and hope that either he brightened up or whoever inherited the farm after him had sense enough to change things.  His lack of willingness to change is impacting animal welfare in ways that drives me absolutely batty.

We lazed around the house and had lunch while the farmer waited for a call from someone that he was supposed to pick up in town (to help mend the fence over the weekend).  The guy never called him back, so we drove up the hill and walked the severely lame cow down to the yard to work on her foot.  Her abscess was so bad that her bad foot was easily twice the size of the others.  As she walked down the hill, the pressure from walking actually caused it to pop out the top and bleed a little at the hairline.  It took quite a lot of digging to find where the infection started at the sole of her foot, but eventually we found a soft spot and worked from there.  Her hoof was incredibly hard so it was slow going trying to dig down to the abscess track.  When we did find it, it smelled awful and was enormous.  We were finally able to dig out most of it while leaving her some foot left to grow back.  We applied a cowslip like we did on the other abscess we worked on, and then jabbed her full of antibiotics.  The withholding period for this antibiotic for milk is 2 days (4 milkings) but she is dry (not lactating) so that is not important for her.  The meat withholding period is 30 days, so it will be a month before she will be able to be shipped to slaughter.  Since she isn’t pregnant and so won’t be milking next season, there is no reason to keep her.  We had to fix her up though because it is illegal (thankfully) to ship lame animals and animals with abscessed feet can’t enter the human consumption food chain.  She will most likely be turned into ground beef and exported to North America or Asia for hamburgers.

After we finished her foot, it was about time to bring the cows in for the afternoon milking.  We moved her into the close paddock so that she can get a few more doses of antibiotic over the next few days, and then drove up to the house so that the farmer could get the two wheel motorbike and a cup of tea.  Then we drove down and herded the cows in to milk.  We had another amazingly good milking with very little pooping and not much general grumpiness.  We finished the afternoon milking before 5:00 pm despite starting a bit later than usual and made it home by 5:30 pm.  All in all a good Friday.

The weekend so far has been very relaxing and full of sleeping in and doing nothing.  I cleaned a little and did some laundry, but mostly I played Harvest Moon, because I didn’t get enough of milking real cows or something.

Edited to add a video of Happy Cows in a pasture



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