Today was my second day of work experience on Street Farm Dairy. I now knew my way around and was more confident with the jobs I would be expected to do. When I arrived, Steve the farmer left me to independently feed the cows. I began with the youngest calves, and as we did yesterday, I collected warm, fresh milk from the milking parlour and took it to the calves. One calf, although crying with hunger could not find the teat on the calf feeder, so I followed what Steve did yesterday and put one hand behind the calf’s ears and the other on its mouth and guided it to the teat where it immediately began to suck. It was very satisfying to be able to successfully help an animal in this way and I will take this simple but important piece of knowledge and experience with me. As I was filling the buckets with pellets, the calves became skittish and nervous and through themselves around their pens. But one calf took her nerves further than all the others. It jumped over the fence. As I had approached it had turned around and leapt over the side of its pen. I just tried to focus on the situation and not panic. My first thought was that I needed to get someone. But then I realised that there were two open doors either side of the barn which could not be shut. This meant that I could not leave the calf in order to get someone because of the risk that it would escape. Therefore, I moved slowly towards the calf, calling quietly and soothingly, trying not to let my nerves send me into panic. The calf quickly from me, darting around the other pens and hiding at the opposite side of the barn. I pulled out the bolts of the gate to its pen and stood the gate open, forming a boundary between the pen and the wall. Walking towards the calf, I ushered it back to its pen, but to my dismay it managed to squeeze pass the door, ignoring its pen. However, I persevered and after much chasing and banging it ran into its pen and I quickly closed the gate. Pushing the bolts back in, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued with my jobs.
I then fed the older calves their pellets. I was more wary about this because in order to feed them, I had to climb in the pen with eight calves who were excited and ignorant to the danger they posed for me. Yesterday, I had followed Steve in, but today I knew that I would have to be careful but confident. I continually watched the calves, ensuring that I was aware of their movement and bold in my movement. I successfully gave both pens of calves their pellets, hay and straw without coming to or causing any harm.
After this, I fed the young cows who were not yet old enough to go out into the field. Taking a wheelbarrow of large pellets, I ducked underneath the electric wire and scattered the pellets in front of the feeding barrier. This is made up of two strips of thick metal, positioned relatively close together so that the cows cannot climb through it but can stick their heads through to reach the food on the other side. These cows got very excited and were very interested in both me and the food.
The last cows to feed were the dry cows. These are older cows who no longer produce milk. I took them a wheelbarrow of very large dry cow rolls which I scattered beside their feeding barrier. Although they had troughs inside their pens in which they normally had food, Steve chose not to let me go into this pen because the dry cows were massive, and unlike the calves they had no fear of humans.
I then went and had my breakfast break before collecting the empty calf feeders and rinsing them out. Then I continued the jet spraying I started yesterday, but this time I descended into the milking parlour pit. This is where the farmer stands to attach the teat cups to the cows’ udders. When I was doing this, I had a good opportunity to look at the equipment and observe how it worked, ensuring cleanliness and comfort during the milking process.
The pit was very dirty, but by lunchtime, it was spotless. Therefore, after lunch I worked on the milk room, jet spraying the walls and scrubbing the windows. In the milk room are two huge tanks which are filled with milk after milking. There is a large pipe running from them to the milk processing room where it can be pasteurised and bottled or turned into cream.
Whilst I was doing this, the other farm workers were unloading a huge lorry filled with plastic bottles. It gave me a glimpse into the commercial side of this animal orientated business and I realised how much more there is to farming than just the animals. This is very important for a vet to consider for although they only deal with the animals, they have to be able to empathise with the farm and find the most cost and time effective method, not for the animal, but for the business.
I don’t feel like I did very much today but I realise that I furthered, complimented and reinforced the image I am gaining of farming. Tomorrow, Steve is taking me and a friend with him to see the Livestock Event 2013 at the NEC in Birmingham. Therefore, I will not be at the farm but I am sure that I will enjoy my day and learn a lot.