He was having problems with the heifers last time I saw him, it spoilt the milking, he said. A new milkmaid to be taught at the same time. As for the heifers, they had to learn to be milked. Their first time ever in the dairy and some of them reluctant to come in. The Farmer had to push them, the slightly built milkmaid trying to entice them with food. Then the step of ten inches or so up onto the block where the actual milking takes place. Most of them managed it. I admired the Farmer who put all his weight against their hindquarters to indicate the direction.
One of them, however, lay down in the dairy. It took an hour to get her onto the block, and then she started kicking. The Farmer had to tie her legs together. Only he can milk her at the moment which is a nuisance. He’d give her another chance, he said, and if she doesn’t do as she’s told, he’d have to get rid of her.
Apparently it’s quite a job to arrange calving for a convenient time, a time when the price for milk is low. There is a certain ‘dry period’ prior to the birth which means that less milk is available. Some people don’t milk them at all, I heard. Not worth the trouble for the price. And the worry about the quota. There’s always a chance of being penalized for supplying too much milk. The Farmer lost a tankful last year because the cooling system went wrong. He wasn’t displeased because it kept his quota down.
A friend of his explained to me once what happens to surplus milk. It is reduced to milk powder, has to be put into storage, is marketed for human consumption and if not sold within two years used up as pig feed. A lot of office work involved as well. And jobs, of course. It struck me as a lot of trouble mainly for pig feed.
I asked the Farmer about badgers and T.B. Do these animals really transmit T.B. to cattle ? He said, he didn’t know, not having had personal experience with the problem. He told me that badgers do carry T.B. and when cattle is affected by this disease in areas where there are badgers, people put two and two together. This was not a problem for him, because there are hardly any badgers in our area. He also added that T.B. tends to occur where there are masses and masses of cattle together. Again not a problem for him because he is lucky, being the only dairy farmer for miles and no other cattle around. He walked away with a pleased little smile.