The rest of the season melded into a blur and, looking back, I realise how much the wonderful people around me became a gift that saved the farm from the disasters that might have happened. To everyone who crossed my path, I made no secret about how little I knew. I explained my situation and pleaded for advice and guidance. My standard thread of conversation was, “Please don’t presume I know or understand. I will never be offended, no matter how trivial your advice or suggestions are. If I don’t know about the information or instructions you offer, I need to learn about them and, if I do know about the information or instructions you offer, it will be reassuring to realise I have got one more task under control.” From the vet to the AI technician, from the milk tanker driver to the herd testing manager, each person played a pivotal part as they came and gifted their encouragement and guidance, and my two incredible helpers turned out to be the glue that held the daily routines together as I muddled my way through.
Within a month, the calf pens had been set up and were filling with the new calves, the old piggery had been cleaned out and organised for Bundy and her piglets, the urgent fencing had been completed, and balage and hay for the cows were secured, a system for the dairy shed had been devised and the milking procedure was operating smoothly. I could deal with effluent disposal, mastitis, downer cows, heat detection, Somatic Cell counts, break feeding, selenium deficiency, bloat prevention, and separating colostrum cows. I knew about soil fertility, slow and fast paddock rotations, nutrient management, body condition assessments (not mine), forage values, and … the dreaded minefield of the consent processes. Amazingly, I found I was beginning to attend Dairy NZ field days and understand most of what was going on.
But, I hadn’t slept much and the huge workload was beginning to take a toll. It was obvious I was not going to last and I was pushed into making the first big professional decision in my dairying adventure … I changed to Once a Day milking. Suddenly I had a life back and that was a great gift.