Very early starts and very late finishes; dairy farming is tough work! Two weeks spent living and working on a 350 cow dairy farm during their block-calving season in August 2014, gave me a great introduction to the life of a dairy farmer and to the wonder of cows.
My temporary home and workplace was a 400 acre farm centred in Lincolnshire, a permanent home to 350 dairy cows, predominantly Swedish Red cross Holstein cross Montbeliarde cows (providing good food conversion efficiency, good milk production and all-round hardiness) along with a good scattering of Jersey cows (to increase the milk’s butterfat content, i.e. to give a creamier milk!).
Working on this farm enabled me to learn, develop and solidify multiple skills, including:
- The herding and handling of cattle
- The use of a Waikato milking parlour
- The identification by visual signs of cows about to calve
- The measurement, and importance of, average grass density (important for many things including for keeping you fit with long walks and the swinging of awkward devices!)
- The postpartum care of calves, including: cleaning the umbilicus with iodine, ear-tagging and stomach-tubing
Additionally, I was able to enhance my understanding of the dairy production cycle, the pros and cons of year-round versus block calving and observe: hoof-trimming, dehorning, assisted calving and cleansing.
Needless to say at the end of my two weeks I found myself left with an enhanced respect for dairy farmers and dairy cows!
These experiences all came in useful at university where I spent an additional six weeks with farm vets learning about production systems, fertility, farm management, infectious disease, biosecurity and herd health as well as getting hands on with production animal health and medical treatments.
If you’d like to know any more about my dairy farm experience, then please do get in touch!