Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Calving season in NZ
On the Hale farm in NZ my romantic notions of being Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie were quashed. I thought I would be churning butter in some Victorian frock, milking cows and hand feeding apples to horses and other farm animals who were all part of the farm family.

Instead I put on a blue one piece smock and green wellies and went to the cow shed (see glamour shot above - I know, Laura Ingalls would be appalled). There I witnessed the civilized entrance and exit of the cows to get milked by the slickest automatic milkers housed in a slick milking station. I am sure I am not saying any of this in correct farm terminology! Help me out Hale's.After this lovely parade to the milk utensils, the cows then walk causally back to their luscious fields to munch more green grass and laze around in the New Zealand fresh air. Not a bad life until some are sold for our steak dinners.I was there during calving season and this is a busy time for Mr. Hale. A few calves are born each day. They are then almost immediately seperated from their mommies (v.sad) and Mr. Hale and his farm hands have to teach these calves to drink from a fake nipple (see pic).

The calves are so cute and quite large for only being a day old, it is cute to see them act like little babies when they are learning to suck. They have milk all over their face and are a little wobbly when walking. They also behave like children; some are more aggressive pushing the others away from a nipple and taking up lots of space while others are just pushed out of the crowd and will not fight the bigger ones to get a feed of the milk.The milk is colostrum or the 'first milk' which is taken from the new mothers, it takes four days for that milk to exit the new mother's system. Colostrum is high in carbs, protein and antibodies which delivers lots of nutrients to the new calves.

Once all the milking is done a big truck picks up the milk (not the colostrum) and whisks it away. Almost immediately, Mr. Hale can get a reading on the internet as to how much milk was collected along with other statistics. How sure Pa Ingalls would not fathom such technology way back when in the mid-west.

This milk is then sold and then turned into butter, powdered milk and other milk by-products that are shipped and sold around the world. I think the farm is connected to Fonterra the largest co-op in NZ which is owned by over 11,000 dairy farmers.

It was a lovely morning watching the cows and calves in the sunshine. We took a ride around the farm on the ATV and it was great to feel the crisp morning all around us. I am sure I will find a mom and pop farm with one lonely cow that I can milk someday! Maybe I will have to find a farm outside of Toronto that caters for farm wannabes like me.

1 comment:

Bunny Hale said...

Sands I hate to say I told you so...but there it is...not all glamour down on the farm is it...hence why I am not currently a farmers wife just a single nomad wandering about Europe. When I spoke to the farm this am the comment was that Robiie Hale was famous...he was reading this post. Gotta love those blue overalls...and you cant call then wellies in NZ...its gumboots all the way xo