Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kiwi Farmer

July 28
I met with Job at Marvin Farms to get all my paperwork set. He talked about the island, where the different ethnic groups are, and whatnot. He went on forever, and I didn't want to tell him that I still had to buy a bus ticket, open a bank account, buy work clothes, get a cell phone, internet, and buy a car all before getting on the bus at 1pm. Also turns out I forgot to pay the hotel, so I had to walk back to pay them! I'm so used to giving the hotel
a credit card beforehand, I completely just walked off without paying!

In two hours, I got the bus ticket, cell phone, paid the hotel,
bought NZ$300 worth of work clothes (yikes!), and opened a bank account. I was pretty impressed. I told Job I couldn't believe how fast it took, and he replied, "This is New Zealand."
"I guess I'm just used to all the red tape in the US," I said.
"Just like in Holland, that's why I left," he said. Humm interesting.

Off to the bus stop in Tauranga. I waited a while, and I actually ran into a Maori with the traditional face tattoos. The indigenous people, the Maori,
are pretty integrated into modern society, but still keep many of their traditions. In fact, New Zealand is a bilingual country, English, and Maori. Just so happens that it was Maori Language Week when I arrived, so some TV shows, including Spongebob, were in Maori. Anyway, he was a little intimidating with his tattoos and 2 inch spacers in his ears. But he was wearing a suit, so it was a little strange to see. This picture I stole off the internet, but should be a good idea of the guy.

A farm truck pulled up- that must be him! The guy introduced himself as Brett, I secretly call him Crocodile Dundee. I guess I just take him for a typical Kiwi, crazy accent, tall, stocky build, blonde, somewhat of a wildness about him. So I learned he's the farm owner, and Dave and Nicky are the sharemilkers. The owner owns the land and cattle while the sharemilk does he day to day managing and decisions. Typically, farm owners are an older couple that were once the sharemilkers on the farm, and pass the farm on. In this case, Brett is an ex police officer probably in his 40's. He he drove like a crazy man at that! He even made a note of it, saying he drives like a typical Kiwi. Ha!

After meeting Dave and Nicky, we briefly chatted, and got ready for the evening milking. The first thing that stuck me was how simple the milking shed was. A simple block building with a lean-to roof attached that contained the parlor, or shed, as they call it.

First huge difference was cow prep, or lack of. I asked what the protocol was. Nicky said to just put the milker on. She explained that apparently in New Zealand, they feel that stripping contaminates the milk. I didn't ask about milk let-down or dirty teats. But if they do have mud on them, they do spray them with teat dip beforehand. Dave also quipped, "If you ask a Kiwi to strip a cow, they wouldn't have a clue what the hell you're talking about."

I also noticed the smell. You could definitely smell these cows were on pasture. And the milk had a very strong smell as well. As I write this on Aug 9th, I can say that I can't even tell the difference anymore, but those first couple milkings, it was strong! I was a bad smell at first, but it's growing on me.

The cows are mostly Holstein Jersey crosses. There were a few bigger Holsteins, but most of them were quite small. All had decent feet and legs (which I'm sure if they didn't they'd cull themselves out pretty fast), and another thing with the Kiwi crosses is the wide front teat placement. Dave said that's the problem with the crosses- that you can't keep a milker on them. Because they aren't his cows, he can be critical of the breeding program.

So a very busy day!

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