The girls thought they had died and gone to heaven, and making the decision to go “Once a Day” was part of it.
My girls had always been leased out for other dairy farmers to milk and, over the years, the herd had traveled from Taranaki to Featherston to the Manawatu and over to the Hawkes Bay area. They were well versed at hopping on a truck and heading off. While the places they went to were wonderful, with people who knew what they were doing and who genuinely cared, the milking herds they joined were big in numbers and size. My dear little Jerseys constantly had to tough it out and fight for their rights amongst large numbers of Friesians. They also had, being on sizable farms, long distances to walk to the dairy shed each day. They were a commercial number going through the system and in the milking shed they were just a part of the slam-bang-thankyou-mam affair.
Things had changed dramatically for them since they arrived here. They were by themselves. It was a short walk to the dairy shed, there was no dog or four-wheeler hurrying them along, there was plenty of room for them in the milking yard, there was no scramble on and off the milking platform and, once they were on the milking platform, their udders were given individual care and attention with a warm hand wash and a rub with some udder cream before the cups were put on. There were no issues with the girls having to be shoved onto the milking platform as there was an automatic molasses feeder in front of them once they got there – push a button and a measured amount of molasses dribbled out for them to lick. After they had finished being milked, they walked out to a side yard for a feed of crushed barley before they wandered a short distance back to their grazing. They couldn’t believe their luck.
But, I was finding the timeframe for each day quite impossible. Every morning there would be some sort of emergency to wake up to … a broken water pipe, an escaped animal (or animals), a cow that didn’t look very happy. It all took a toll as you either milked and kept one eye on the emergency or you dealt with
the emergency and kept the girls waiting. Going into town for supplies, or for business, was a real dash as there was the constant nag of getting back to set up for the afternoon. Fitting everything in that needed to be done was unattainable.
When I first arrived here, a lady - who had occasionally milked for the previous owners - mentioned that I should go OAD, but I had sort of poo-pooed that idea as ‘not being natural’. I had always milked twice a day and my vision of OAD was blanketed with things not nice for the cows. But, in the light of things not nice for me, I revisited the idea and, after a lot of research on the internet and discussions with people who were milking OAD, I decided to make the change.
There were some other factors as well. I had a cow that was being milked separately because she had had a course of penicillin. I was bringing her in once a day and, with a bit of measuring and calculating, I realised she was milking just as much as the twice-a-day herd average. She didn’t seem uncomfortable during the milking process and she hadn’t put an SPCA sign up because she was missing out on one feed of molasses. It also dawned on me that the rest of the girls were coming into the dairy in the afternoon mainly for their feed. They weren’t particularly interested in being milked and, in fact, a few of them just came in to eat and do the Highland fling. The afternoon milking was definitely not as easy to do as the morning milk.
So the change was made. The girls were happy … they had more time to lie about in the long grass and snooze under the trees, and I was happy … I had more time to hang out the washing and vacuum the house. Heaven.