For some reason, Juan decided I was the best person to be in charge of the cows. He was off to plant wheat in some nearby farm all day and needed someone to take care of them. You would have thought he would have chosen someone who actually knew what the hell he was talking about. But no, he chose me.
I nodded my way through a day of following him around the farm as he told me the procedure for grazing, milking and feeding the cows as well as for feeding all the other animals on the farm. So it was that on Saturday I woke up at 4.30am, got everyone together (there’s 4 of us volunteers at the moment) and told them what to do. We had to get the two smallest calves from the stables, take them to the Tambo (the milking station), get the 4 big cows from the field, take them through to the Tambo, the 2 biggest cows through first, give them a good milking then return them to the stables and fields respectively. Then feed them and everything else. This wouldn’t be too difficult if there wasn’t a procedure for almost every different cow. Some have dry pastor, some fresh, some weeds, there was the little one with diarhoea that couldn’t eat anything green, and so on.
It took 4 of us 1 and a half hours to milk the cows and feed the animals. It normally takes Juan 1 hour, but then we had only had one day’s training. The morning went perfectly though, and I went back to bed. I woke up later at 9.30am where the cows had to change from one field to another and fresh pastor had to be collected from the other side of the farm. I was the only person allowed to drive the van, despite having the least experience. The fact that I’m the only boy seemed to rile up everyone else a little bit. Was sexism at play here? It is quite possible. But then they are all rural folk here. This was all done with consumate ease. It wasn’t til later that a few cracks appeared.
For the 4pm milking we had to get the little cows from one of the fields first. This would have gone smoothly except that the string that I couldn’t find earlier to tie up one of the fences meant there was a massive hole in the fence which those cows just poured through. All four little ones went off in different directions. I don’t know if anyone has ever tried to collect little calves but they are the most scared animals in the world. As soon as you get anywhere near them, they absolutely leg it. It took about half an hour to get them all rounded up, as one of them had managed to run all the way to the other end of the farm, and really didn’t want to go back. By this time, the big cows had started mooing like their life depended on it as they were pissed they hadn’t been milked it. We were just happy to have the calves back in possession. After this, everything went smoothly, except for the little calf with diarrhoea who continued to poo all around the Tambo as we milked the cows.
Juan came back later and we told him everything went according to plan, well he doesn’t need to know, does he?