Truly successful Kiwi travels are the result of random connections.
While we were staying at the Top 10 in Queenstown, Mom struck up a conversation with a farmer from the North Island. Lowell and I then got chatting with him, and he hooked us up with dairy farmers near Invercargill (on the south end of the South Island). We’ve been keen for a tour of a Kiwi dairy farm because Lowell’s parents were dairy farmers back in the day and Papa T has dreamt of starting a dairy farm in NZ. We were thrilled when Phillip and Denise extended an invitation for a tour.
Our trip there was slightly delayed as we were stuck behind a travelling house. All oncoming traffic was forced into the ditch, and the vehicles behind it (i.e., us) were forced to go slow. I felt like I should be waving and throwing candies out the window. Our slow speed and the cars in the ditch watching in awe and snapping photos made me feel like we were part of a parade. The crazy parade.
The driving house wasn’t the only reason for our delay, however. We also drove slowly because the wind rivaled Southern Albertan gusts and nearly sent Gus a-flyin. The wind turbines up in the hills (one of three wind farms in the whole country) made us think of our Albertan roots as well.
Anyhoo, moving along to the dairy farm.
Phillip and Denise have been dairy farmers for most of their adult lives. They started out on the North Island, then moved to the South Island to pioneer dairy farming in the area with their son-in-law (about 10 years ago). Phillip is on the board of the Fonterra cooperative and represents 500 milk producers in the area. Phillip was at a meeting when we arrived, so his son-in-law, John, gave us a tour of their high tech facilities.
Twice a day, 1500 cows get pumped through the milking system which only requires three people to operate.
The cows start out in the circular pen, then stumble onto the rotating floor that holds 80 cows. The workers hook the milkers on to the teets, and away they go.
Apparently it’s an added thrill for the cows to rest their rumps on the bar as they go for their utterly exciting (he he) spin.
By the end of the ride, the cows are milked and they dizzly tumble off the rotator and carry their empty utters back to the pasture.
Their milk is pumped into a pair of 22,000 Litre tanks.
Lucky for me, one of the hoses sprang a leak and I got to sneak a taste of the whole milk from the teet just before John repaired it. Mmmmm…
After witnessing the milking process, John gave us a bumpy & informative 4X4 tour of the 3.5 thousand acre property.
It was during this tour that John asked us where we were spending the night. We informed him that we were planning on driving into Invercargill to free camp. Without saying another word, he was on the phone with a farming family in Invercargill requesting that “the Canadian couple” park in their yard. Angela, Wayne and their 5 children (who run three dairy farms of their own) were happy to oblige, and we had ourselves set accommodation for the night!
By the time the tour was over, Phillip was back home, and we were invited in for tea, coffee, delicious Dutch cookies, and a discussion around the state of dairy farming in NZ.
Turns out that Kiwi dairy farming in general is not so dissimilar to Canadian dairy farming (except they never have to milk in temperatures below zero and the farmers’ accents are cooler).