A typical day
2:30am: My alarm goes off.
3:15am: I begin my drive to the dairy farm. I would say I am usually a morning person. Just not a this-early-in-the-morning person, but my initial weary, somewhat cranky self begins to smile contentedly as I drive through deserted country roads with my view of the surrounding fields washed over by the sunrise.
4am: I begin milking 300 cows with one of the farmers.
7am: Milking finished and the parlour thoroughly cleaned! We now begin driving out to various fields, checking on and feeding calves who flock towards the van as they hear us approach. The sight of them running excitedly towards us as the sun rises is something I’ll treasure.
10am: Breakfast and a much needed cup of tea.
11am: We rotate groups of cows from one field to another and bring in any who are in their late stages of pregnancy. My jobs for the rest of the morning include worming, treating animals who show signs of injury or infection and cleaning (sanitation is important in preventing infections in the herd).
2pm: The next few hours are spent on the second milking before I change out of my waterproofs, say goodbye and drive home.
The hours of my dairy placement were certainly a shock to the system, starting at 4am and finishing the day at around 5:30/6pm. However, it opened my eyes to a farmer's daily lifestyle and how hard they work without complaint. I had the opportunity to get involved in many areas of dairy work such as milking, feeding, herding, care of the calf as well as helping in the cheese making building. This taught me a lot about dairy farms as businesses as I could see first-hand how the milk from the cows I had milked in the morning was used in the afternoon towards produce for the public. I learnt a lot about cow breeds and their traits; the reason this farm used Mont Beliarde cows was due to their rich milk which is ideal for making brie cheese, this farm's speciality. This breed is often stubborn and uncooperative hence many are crossed with Holsteins which are more easily managed. The staff were very helpful in explaining the common diseases affecting their cows (e.g. mastitis and Johnes disease) and the ways in which these are dealt with which I later focused my second year research project on. One morning, I was able to watch pregnancy scanning of cows and heifers where I was amazed by the technology available for farm use.
Unfortunately, at short notice, I was asked to bring forward my visit by two weeks which happened to fall just before their peak calving period; although I could help out with monitoring, marking and management of pregnant cows, I only had few interactions with calves so feel I am yet to practice the skills needed to confidently care for them. However, I made sure to ask lots of questions and made notes to help my future study on calf husbandry. In future, I would make sure to ask in advance about the tasks expected of me. In this way, I could mentally prepare and potentially adjust my lifestyle leading up to the placement so the early mornings and heavy lifting often involved in daily farm work proved easier!
Written by: Dhanya Mahadevan
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