Day in the life of a South African Jersey dairy cow

A little while ago, clever teenage farmer Firn Hyde made a guest post on the Milk Maid Marian blog and it was so popular I begged her for more! So here is your next instalment – a day in the life of a South African Jersey dairy cow written by Firn.

Hi everyone!
My name is Hydeaway Kalos Barbara, but most people just call me Barbara. I’m a young Jersey cow living on Hydeaway Farm in South Africa. I’ve only just had my first calf, and my friends know me as goofy but loveable.

Barbara the Jersey cow

Introducing Barbara

Early every morning, we walk up to the top of our paddock to get milked. Some of our humans come to fetch us, but we know to come as soon as we hear the milking machine bellow. We have lots of humans who for some reason walk on their hindlegs and are very noisy and not like cows at all, but they feed us and milk us so we’re quite fond of them.
Here I am waiting to go into the parlour to be milked.

Waiting to be milked

Waiting to be milked

The parlour is really noisy. At first I was scared of going inside it with all the noise, and I used to kick at the human putting the machine on my udder to suck my milk out, but now I’m used to it. We get to eat some nice food while we’re being milked, and when I’ve been milked I feel a lot more comfortable.


Milking time

After being milked, we wait in a paddock until milking is finished. I’m usually one of the last cows to be milked because I’m smaller and younger than the others, so they push me out of the way and I’ve learned to wait my turn. Once the milking machine has stopped bellowing, our humans open the gates for us so that we can go outside for the day. I love going outside, there’s so much food and space!

Off to the Paddock

Off to the Paddock

Do you see the big black cow on the left? Well, we’re all supposed to be Jersey cows, but he’s not a cow at all; he’s half Holstein and half Jersey, and he’s an ox. He has a little heifer human who keeps him as a pet. She likes to lie on his back and scratch his ears.

Now we spend the whole day grazing in the veld. Our humans think the grass isn’t good enough for us, but I like it. Here I am with some of my friends.

Barbara with her bovine friends

With friends

The grass tastes really good!

Barbara grazing


It’s not long before our humans come in a tractor to bring us our lunch. We each get our own bowl full of food. There is a bit of squabbling at the start, and sometimes us young cows get pushed out of the way, but there’s enough for everyone.



We spend a few more hours grazing away before our humans come to fetch us again and escort us back to the milking parlour. By then my udder is all tight and I’m ready for my supper.

Supper time

Supper time

After getting milked again, we go into our paddock for the night. We have two big round bales of hay, but I also like to nibble on the green kikuyu grass that grows there. The milking machine goes quiet and the whole world settles down for the night. As the sun retreats below the horizon and the silence of Africa spreads its wings around us, everything is very peaceful, and I graze among my friends knowing that tomorrow is going to be just as happy as today was for a young Jersey cow on Hydeaway Farm.

Day's end

Day's end

Teen tells her personal story of dairying in South Africa

I’ve been mightily impressed by the incredibly entertaining dairy blog of one very clever South African teenager, Firn Hyde, and asked her to send in a guest post.

Hello everyone in Australia and beyond. First of all I’d like to thank Marian for the very kind invitation to contribute to her fabulous blog. It’s much appreciated!

I’m Firn Hyde, the teenager of Hyde Family. We live in the Highveld of South Africa and run a small dairy called Hydeaway Farm, where we embrace our slogan – “Names Not Numbers”. My mom, Dinki, and dad, Jon, run it together; Dad is also a computer programmer and works in Johannesburg, so Mom does a lot of the daily management while Dad works on maintaining machinery and fences. Their two daughters, myself (fourteen years old) and Rain (twelve) complete the Hyde Family.

Firn Hyde

Dinki, Firn and Rain Hyde with Holstein heifers, Hermoine and Kaleidoscope, bred by Brett Gordon at the Standerton show

Mom and Dad chose to homeschool the two of us and in doing so gained two valuable farm labourers. Whilst Rain is a ballet dancer and does the more domestic jobs, I like to get dirty and work with the animals. This is definitely a family business. It’s a dream we all chase together.

We milk 90 registered cows and own Hydeaway Jersey Stud. We love Jerseys for several reasons, among them size, calving ease, temperament and their golden, creamy milk. The cows and many of the Jersey heifers go out to graze during the day. We would love to have beautiful pastures like Marian’s, but at present the best word for our grazing is “veld”, which is something between “grassland” and “wilderness” in our native language, Afrikaans. Due to the poor quality grass we supplement them with good eragrostis hay.

Hydeaway Jerseys grazing on the veld

Hydeaway Jerseys grazing on the veld

By far the more successful part of our farming operation is the heifer raising. Holstein heifers arrive here at 3 months of age. They live in small but grassy paddocks and eat pellets and hay, growing to about 350kg at the age of 12 months, when they are artificially inseminated by yours truly. We keep them until they’re 7 months pregnant, then their owner takes them home to be milked.

Hydeaway Farm raises heifers for other South African dairy farmers

Hydeaway Farm raises heifers for other South African dairy farmers

In S. A., it’s generally the big farmers that do the best; they say you can only do it profitably if you milk upwards of 300 cows and grow your own feed. Total mixed ration is more popular than pastures, and cow housing is apparently the way to go but we find the idea of keeping cows inside 24/7 positively sickening. Yes, we are sentimental, but the cows are happy doing what cows are supposed to do; graze and interact in a herd.

Altogether, there are roughly 500 cattle living on our farm. Oh yes, and they all have names, every last one. Walking through the paddocks is asking to be thoroughly licked and slobbered on.

The single greatest difference between dairying in Australia and S. A. is probably the labour. Labour in our country is relatively cheap, but unskilled. We have 13 workers, with at least 11 on the farm at any one time, and in harvest season other farmers can have over 40.

I’ll wrap up by telling all the dairy farmers out there to hang on. With just 2600 dairy farmers left in South Africa, we’re a declining breed. Those that are left are, for the most part, pretty special.