I breath with my herd.
This is one of my enabling actions from my Holistic Decision Making context.
I feel as though I can exhale now.
The last week I’ve been lying awake from 4:30 am, but not with the usual anxious thoughts which plague you at that hour, WHAT IF EVERYTHING GOES WRONG! No, lying awake with excitement ready to get up and milk!
It’s been a long journey to get here; milking my first cow with the next generation bounding around, everyone happy and healthy. I certainly would not be here without the support and generosity of people throughout my life. Some fleeting and some lifers. There was no single defining moment which lead me here, but here is most definitely where I’m meant to be.
One of those many defining moments was last year when I first met Berta. I’d spent much of the past few years dreaming of how my future dairy was going to operate. It’s easy to dream of the insignificant details when the time is not upon you; how much detergent will I need, not, how exactly will I create enough hot water for washing and pasteurisation without costing the earth; financially or environmentally? Then last winter I went to meet a local farmer who was selling his house cow. What a cow! They don’t come better than this lady! Triple score: temperament, body genetics and udder/milk quality. Meeting Berta I felt; no matter how hard things get, if I get to spend my days with this cow, everything will be worth it. At the time I was on a 6 months working study tour of dairies up the East coast and only home for a week. I would have had to pass on Berta if it hadn’t been for this farmer going above and beyond to help me get on my feet. Getting her in calf, drying her off, holding onto her until my return and then selling me the magnificent milking machine to accompany her. Overwhelming generosity.
For 9 months we’ve been with Berta, watching her get wider, becoming besotted with her. However she did take her loneliness out on us in the form of constant licking. Then two months ago a friends two jerseys came to join us; Daisy and Millie along with Daisy’s four month old calf, Rocket. Perfect, Berta has her herd. Wait… disaster! Berta’s maternal instincts kick in and she abducts Rocket! ‘Who is this neurotic cow I don’t know chasing me around and redefining the cow lick’. Separated by a fence, everyone settled back into their own rhythm.
As Berta’s calving date got closer, I was sure she would drop early. The reality of our future started to sink in, accompanied by panic of how far off ready our processing factory was. The milk flood-gates where about to open!
The days kept passing and on her due date, like clockwork, her waters broke. Oli and I were able to watch the very efficient and focused breech birth; a chestnut heifer from a dairy short-horn sire. I named her Iggy; a tribute to my father, my inspiration to farm.
A friend told me that when you plan things you should always work out how long it will take, then double it. With the milk flowing and no factory, we decided to adopt another calf to help us drink the milk and raise a future milker. And so Norma came to join us last Friday, an angelic jersey. One lick across her face and Berta took to her.
Now that I’ve got a herd of 6 and I’m milking, it’s making all those dry Food Safety and Organic Management Plans seem worth the hours at the computer.
Things are moving.
So in times to come, when I’m waking at 4:30 anxious about what could go wrong, please remind me to go and sit and breath with my herd, ruminate a while. It may not change whats going on but it may help me to recenter and connect with all which is above and below, to move forward with a clear head.