Let me tell you how it can be a little awkward to show up on a dairy farm and announce that you are lactose intolerant. It wasn't that my audience was unreceptive about my dietary restrictions, but it did become a bit of a running joke throughout my stay. Meg was very good to me and claimed she had fun being creative with her cooking. She made plenty of tasty meals (and sweet treats), and adapted some recipes so I would be able to taste some traditional Kiwi (and Scottish) cuisine!
My dad has sometimes commented about how I would be an asset to a dairy farmer if I was keen on helping out because I wouldn't be tempted to drink any of the profits. Well, it turns out that the only thing the family consumes directly from the farm (aside from the meat they freeze every year) is eggs... not heaps of raw milk! Even so, it seemed like almost a threat that they wanted me to help out at the cow shed some day, since time was passing and it never actually happened.
It came up again two days before my departure, and it was agreed that (rather than leaving at half past five in the morning) I would help out with the afternoon milking the next day. Todd stopped by the house after riding his horses on Thursday and picked me up on his motorbike (4-wheeler). He lent me a pair of overalls (full coverage, neck to ankle, and fairly huge since Todd is tall) and I borrowed a random pair of gumboots when I got to the shed (also ginormous on me). I later understood the importance of both of these articles, as without them I would have been covered in fresh brown splatter marks and up to my ankles in slop!
Todd is a fairly quiet guy, so for a while I just watched and learned. I, along with the farm dog Doogie, helped Todd herd the straggling cattle into the fenced in area outside the milking shed. We then set to work, joining Todd's employee who was already lining up the first group of cows to hook them up to the milking machine. Todd showed me how to start the suction mechanism, line up the teats, and attach the machine to each cow. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised with how different each cow can be. You could tell the older cows that have been milking for years from the young ones who were sometimes hard to get started. Some were quite accustomed to the process and did as they were directed, while others were more devious, trying to pry off the suction with their hind hooves or attempting to jump over the chain and sneak by as if we wouldn't notice that they hadn't yet been milked.
After each row was hooked up to the machine, we sprayed disinfectant on the cows who had finished before guiding a new row into the shed. At times we had to walk out in the middle of the crowd to drive stubborn cows from behind, or wait for Todd to chase a bull out of the herd, but the whole milking process seemed to go fairly quickly. There was only once that I asked Todd to help with a cow that wasn't letting me put the suctions on her and tried to kick me away each time I approached.
I didn't actually venture to take my camera out and get any shots of trying my hand at milking, but I did take the following picture to prove I got up close and personal with the cows! Note the extra brown freckle on my cheek that is indeed not a freckle at all.
Lactose aside, I can't say that I found my calling for a new profession, but I am happy that I actually got out in the muck while staying on a dairy farm. It was a new experience for me and adds one more thing to the list of stuff I can say I have done in my life!