Our stay at Stu’s kicked off with milking a couple cows daily, planting flaxes, and finishing odd jobs around the farm- cleaning pens, building fences, replacing gates, the lot.
We prepared for calving season with a few full-on days of vetting all the mamas. 200+ cows came through the crush to get vitamin B12 injections, salinium drenches, magnesium bullets (mega pills), shaved tails, and even some new ear tags. It was a doozy.
Fortunately, with the help of our awesome Japanese co-WWOOFers Hiji, Nariko, and Ayumi, we were able to get everything done without too many hiccups.
Well… mostly, anyway. Hiji got in the way of one very determined cow on her way out of the race and was laid out in a small mountain of poo. As soon as we were able to stop laughing, we all- naturally- took pictures.
Now that calving is in full swing, our days are even more fast-paced, filthy, wild, and super duper exciting. When all the cows are due to calve at roughly the same time, you start out the season with one or two babies… which rapidly turn into four or five… then fifteen or so… and all of a sudden you are completely overwhelmed with the sheer number of tiny little creatures everywhere.
You’d think that newborns would tend to stay with their mothers for the first few hours of life, but cows have no such ideas. We’ve trudged through who knows how much bush, swampy drains, and seemingly deserted paddocks in search of escaped infants who were born mere hours earlier.
The pay off for all of this hard work, though, is enormous- both in terms of milk and sheer adorableness.
Heifer Calf Playtime - YouTube Video Coming Soon
Every morning, we milk roughly 100 mama cows, bringing them into the yard and milking shed in mobs. Getting the cows to file into the shed requires a lot of pushing, jumping, loud noises, and persuasion (in the form of gallons upon gallons of molasses). After that, we all pile into the pit to wash udders, put on cups, and spray teats.
If we’re lucky, we get a run of mild-mannered cows who stand still and wait to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, there’s a lot of getting stomped on, pooped on, peed on, and occasionally kicked. You learn to move fast in the milking shed.
Once there’s enough milk for the calves, we take roughly 100 liters of milk over to the calf sheds for breakfast time. Now that they’ve all learned how to drink on their own from the milk bar, we spend most of the time pouring milk in their feeder as fast as we can, trying to keep up.
Milk Bar Madness - YouTube Video Coming Soon
You also have to watch out for the rogue calf who has gotten confused and has started sucking on your jacket/pants/boots/fingers/hair/elbows thinking that one more whack with her head will make the milk come.
It IS mildly frustrating, but 100% hilarious every time.
Every few days, we get a group of newbies to teach, but they’re quick (and hungry!) learners. Usually, we just take the calves to the milk bar, stick a couple milky fingers in their mouth, lead them to the teat, and close their mouth around it a couple times before they catch on.
Munchkin/Sambo the lamb (Stu calls her Sambo, but she is a girl so whatever.) gets her breakfast as soon as the calves slow down and after a lot of MEHHHHHing on her part. Now that she’s bigger, she stays in the calf shed but escapes every morning to follow me around as I feed the mini moos. She is HUGE now compared to the tiny, shivering, muddy being we rescued a few weeks ago. She’s also entered the exciting realm of jumping on and around all of the calves because she can, which is massively entertaining.
We are leaving Stu’s place soon, and will be sad to leave all of these little fuzzy buggers, and our lovely new friends.
Fortunately, we got the opportunity to take one last drive up to Hokitika with Hiji and Nariko yesterday before we had to leave. Just in time to see the stunning blue gorge before sunset!