A lunchtime punt on the farm

What a wonderful day to go boating!

Unconventional boat launching, granted.

Unconventional boat launching, granted.

 

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

“Simply messing…about in boats — or with boats… In or out of ’em it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

“Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together and have a long day of it?”
– Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Although my invitation for Wayne to unblock the effluent pond pipe was not quite so romantic as Ratty’s, it was a little more pressing.

All the manure that collects on the dairy yard while the cows are waiting to be milked is hosed away into ponds. This way, it can be reapplied to the paddocks where valuable nutrients are recycled rather than leaking into waterways.

Realizing we would run out of storage over winter, we had an extra pond excavated back in autumn. The system is now getting rather full but, still, the pipe from pond 2 to the new pond refuses to flow.

Damnation

Damnation: this should be a waterfall

We suspected the pipe was too long, buoyant and flexible, so the idea was to simply row in and saw some off. After a false start and some safety modifications (getting some hay band to stabilise the boat with an anchormaid) to the Good Ship Shi%, Wayne did just that.

Wayne wrestles with the Loch Macdonald monster

Wayne wrestles with the Loch Macdonald monster

The rotten thing still popped up defiantly above the surface. Another metre lopped off and it sank. Triumphantly, we waited for the water to flow. Nothing.

The next weapon in our armoury was a long piece of poly. Wayne thrust the two-inch down the throat of the pipe with all the courage of his Viking ancestors, daring a blockage to reveal itself. Four or five metres in – about where the two sections of pipe must join in the centre of the pond wall – it did.

Ah well, not every boating story has a happy ending, as Toad would attest. The next exciting episode will have to feature some serious yellow horsepower. Life on farm is never boring!

What does the missing dairy farmer look like?

Shi#t

Shi#t

This is the shirt that had to be left on the lawn because it was too dirty for the laundry. Check out the collar. He was wearing it when it became…soiled. Imagine the man.

Me: “So, who got you? Was it 1257 or 800?”

Him: “I don’t know – it was too quick, I was blinded and they were firing at me from all directions – in front and behind.”

Me: (Trying desperately not to laugh) “What did you do?”

Him: “I groped about and found something really thick and thought, ‘Great, that’s a hose’ and just blasted myself with the fire hose for a few minutes. And a few minutes later, another one got me from behind and it flowed down over my eyes before I could stop it, so I don’t know who that was either.”

Me: “Oh, you poor thing. But you seem in good spirits…”

Him: “Yeah. I decided that s#$t happens, so I might as well just take a break and have a drink. I peeled off my shirt, hosed myself down again, had that drink, and milked like this.”

Me: “What – in the nude?”

Him: (Indignantly) “With my shorts and gumboots on! I added an apron when the tanker arrived in case I scared the driver.”

Me: Raucous laughter.

Him: “Feel my hair”

Me: “Ah, no thanks.”

Him: “Go on, feel it…Don’t look at me like that…Okay, smell it then.”

Me: “It smells like Ovaltine – go and have a shower, for goodness’ sake.”

Milking cows certainly has its moments and there were quite a few of those “moments” for Wayne because now that the grass has pretty much shrivelled up, the cows have been dining on a divine, juicy crop of rape and tender young millet. Never mind, it’ll settle in a day or two…

Cows grazing millet

They can barely walk because their pants are suddenly too tight

The perfect poo – a noble quest

Just like the mother of a newborn babe, dairy farmers spend a lot of time examining the poo of their charges.

The perfect patty?

Perfection in poo is a noble quest

It’s not easy to live on grass. The stuff is very hard to digest and that’s why cows have developed an amazing digestive system that this really nice little video explains beautifully in a little over a minute. As you’ll see, the rumen and its helpful bugs play a vital role.

Manure is the dairy farmer’s window into the rumens of the cows. If their diet gets out of balance, they can get “acidosis”, which means the bugs die off and the cows find it very hard to digest their food. Not surprisingly, this is bad news! If it gets bad enough, the cows get extremely sick but it can also be subclinical, only affecting milk production. One of the first signs is the wrong type of poo.

According to Dairy Australia’s informative Feed Fibre Future Quick Checks Fact Sheet D (c’mon DA, couldn’t you have come up with a more friendly name?):

“Manure has a porridge-like consistency. Forms a soft pile 40–50 mm high, which may have several concentric rings and a small depression in the middle. Makes a plopping sound when it hits concrete floors and will stick to the toe of your shoe. This is what you are aiming for.”

Because we’ve increased the cows’ grain ration with the onset of spring, we’ve matched that with extra fibre in the form of silage to prevent acidosis and I’ve been Chief Manure Monitor to check we’ve got it right.

I thought that when our farm consultant, Matt, arrived earlier this week he’d be proud of me. Well, he was but said that, if he was to be really picky, perhaps the poo was slightly too firm. As a consequence, we’ve upped the grain a little and backed off the silage by one roll.

Oh, the road to perfection has no end!