It’s not all black and white at the Royal Melbourne Dairy Show

There hasn’t been a lot of activity on the Milk Maid Marian dairy blog of late because we’ve taken a family mini-break centred around the Royal Melbourne Dairy Show. Held a week or so before the big public Royal Melbourne Show, this event is the opportunity for dairy breeders to strut their stuff.

What struck us as “commercial” dairy farmers rather than showies was the variety of cows and the sheer size of the Holsteins. Just take a look at this cow!

Huge Holstein cow

The guy handling the cow was not a midget

We also fell in love with a few gorgeous cows.

Illawarra cow

Young Illawarra cow – Australia’s own dairy breed

Guernsey cow

A gentle Guernsey called “Bling”

Brown Swiss cow

Beautiful Brown Swiss

Jersey Heifer

Zoe with a dear little Jersey yearling

It’s a great reminder that even though 1.4 million of Australia’s 1.7 million dairy cows are Holsteins, there’s a whole kaleidoscope of cows out there.

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

Breech birth but cow hates hospital

Cow facing a breech birth

Cow facing a breech birth

This cow led us on a merry dance. Zoe and I had spotted a single, dry hoof on its way out and up the wrong way – a sure sign of big calving trouble. Two front hoofs should appear to “dive” out of the cow, closely followed by a nose and it should all happen too quickly for the membranes to dry in the sun.

Despite her predicament (breech births are difficult and life threatening) and little Zoe’s sage advice, 1063 raced around the paddock like the Artful Dodger. She even paused defiantly for me to take her picture before we set off on another game of cat and mouse. Eventually, we got her into the yards and, 25 minutes later with a lot of help from Clarkie, 1063 gave birth to a stillborn bull calf. We were just glad she was okay.

As in humans, breech presentations are unpredictable and unpreventable. Most calving problems at our farm are caused by calves that are just too big. To minimise the likelihood of difficult calvings, we choose bulls with narrow shoulders and medium rather than large statures. We also mate our maiden heifers (cows who have never calved before) with Jersey bulls. Because this breed is significantly smaller than the Friesian cows we milk, the calves pose little risk for heifers.