OK, WAY down on the farm, down here towards the bottom of the world. Or, so it seems sometimes. Actually, we’re only about as far south as northern Wisconsin is north, but since there’s nothing but ocean and ice to the south of us, and only a few roads to the north, it sometimes feels like the bottom of the world.
On Saturday afternoon, September 1st, we were privileged to be the guests of Sharyon & Andrew Ralph on their dairy farm, about 20 kms ENE of Invercargill. Sharyon (“Mrs. Ralph”) is Aras’ Year 3/4 teacher at Waverley Park School. We had a great time and learned quite a bit!
Andrew Ralph has about 600 milking cows on his property. He employs several people to help him with his day-LONG chores (and, I do mean LONG days!). The cows have to be milked twice a day. One very interesting thing that I learned is that NZ cows are smaller than Wisconsin cows. This is because in NZ, there’s a lot more rain and the ground can get quite boggy, particularly at this time of the year. The bigger the cows are, the easier it is for them to get stuck in the boggy ground. And, I’m guessing that it’s no easy chore to extricate a 600 kg cow from the mud, let alone a larger American cow, they also have other animals like pigs, sheep and dogs that help with the work, since they’re pretty well educated, they use calming treats for dogs amazon for this, so they are relax most of the time.
One of the other things that I learned is that the weather here has been relatively dry this winter/spring (remember, our seasons are reversed here). While most everyday is partly cloudy and pleasantly cool/warm with high humidity, and we have had a bit of rain, it has been quite a bit less rain than a normal year. So, in some ways, they’re having a drought here, too, but it’s a relatively green drought by midwestern standards. But, it has been so dry that the Ralphs (and many others) have had to call out the water trucks to come and fill their cisterns/water tanks. (Most [?] rural homes rely on the collection of rainwater for their household water needs, not a well.) From what I’ve heard about the spring-time weather here, we should be experiencing some hail as well as horizontal rain – which we have yet to see.
The highlight of the afternoon was seeing a newly born calf! It was born about 15 minutes before we arrived. I’ve seen a lot of other animals being born – cats, dogs, chicks, humans – but not really a cow. When the calf tried to stand, I think that all of the parents there – at least me! – wanted to try to help it up and keep it from falling, but this was a time not to mess with Nature, particularly with the mother cow nervously standing nearby. After we left the calf, it’s mother came over and licked it, and tried to nudge it to find her udder.
We also got to try FRESH milk for the first time in my life. Very similar to 2% milk, but a wee bit thicker. 🙂 I don’t think that Julija particularly enjoyed it.
Not much else to report about the afternoon other than it was a great pleasure to get out of town and, if only briefly, to be a part of someone else’s life down here and to better understand their lives. Frankly, there’s not that much that’s different about the life of a dairy farmer here in the Southland when compared (based on very little personal experience) to Wisconsin dairy farmer. It’s a lot of long, dirty, dangerous work owning a dairy farm…