We have had an awesome opportunity to stay out in the country in the Waikato part of New Zealand. Dairy farming is big business in New Zealand. New Zealand is the 8th largest exporter of dairy products in the world and dairy farming is a $11 billion industry. They have 5.8 million dairy cows and 4.1 million beef cows in this country with 4.4 million people. Sheree is a great friend that we have known for years and she and her husband have a large dairy farm about 20 minutes outside of Te Awamutu. Sheree’s mother and her partner live one road over from Sheree and they offered to let us stay in a cottage that they have on their property. It was a great opportunity for us and our kids to learn a bit about dairy farming and country life. Calving has just finished a few months ago, and there were 4 calves staying in a paddock near the cottage. Shay and Tegan loved going into the paddock to pet, walk, feed or just spend time with the calves
. They would also go to collect the eggs from the chickens. They are free range chickens and different species that produce different eggs. The kids thought the small blue eggs were the coolest! They also fed the 3 ducks that live on the lake. We spent a bit of time at the milking shed, which is way more sophisticated that I expected! The cows are brought into the milking shed through automatic gates. They seem to know exactly what to do! They enter a milking stall on a rotary platform. Once the suction cups have been attached, it takes about 2 minutes for the cow to be milked and complete the circle rotation. The shed is all computerized and tons of information is collected at each milking about each cow. The amount of liters of milk produced, the salt content in the milk, the quality of the milk is all measured through the computerized system. The cows also wear pedometers so they can tell when they are ready to be inseminated by how much they walk in a day. Each cow is weighed on the way out of the milking shed, and that is one way to measure if they are losing weight possibly due to illness. They are milked 2 times a day, with the AM milk producing more than the PM milk. I am sure some of you agriculture people reading this are chuckling at my naivety about dairy milking, but I found this extremely interesting and high tech!
We also attended Agriculture Day with Sheree’s family
. The kids are meant to bring their best calves, lambs and goats to be judged in various events. There was the leading category where they would walk around the paddock, and be judged on how well you walked with your animal. There was the rearing category, where the judge would come and look at how well taken care your animal was and ask you questions about what and how much they eat, when were they born and what immunizations they have had. It is an opportunity for the kids to learn what is all involved in raising these animals. Sounds a bit like the 4H club that friends in Saskatoon are involved in. There was also the dairy type category where the judge is looking at the bone structure and the overall build of the animal. The last category and probably the cutest was called the group of 3. A group of three were meant to walk their animals down the paddock, trying to keep together and looking as symmetrical as possible. You were all meant to dress the same as well. Some of the younger kids with the lambs and goats, dressed themselves up as well as their pets. There were little lambs in pink tutus and rabbit ears, goats in All Black capes. It was quite funny to see. The kids had a blast and it was a great time in the country!