Back in October we began a search for four inspirational young farming voices to give us a 'taste of the countryside'.
In this article, Ruth Wills from Cornwall talks us through a day in the life of a dairy farmer and the work that goes into producing the milk for your morning cup of tea or coffee.
"Work on the family dairy farm in Cornwall starts at 5.30am when we get up for milking, (or rather, put the alarm on snooze five times, then get up for milking). You really have to be a morning person for this job!
Milking starts at 6am. There are 150 cows to milk, so this usually takes just under two hours. The girls are always eager to come in, as they have in-parlour feeders so they can happily munch away while we do our work.
Milking is a good time to check the cows’ health. Hygiene is extremely important on a dairy farm; we want the cows to remain healthy and we don’t want to affect the milk.
Every other day the milk is collected in a big lorry and taken to a processing unit in Cullompton. Once processed, our milk is exported all around the world, some travelling as far as China and Australia. Some is even made into baby milk powder.
Once milking is over, it’s time for a quick coffee and to feed the calves. When these grow up, they’ll be producing milk in the herd too. When that’s done, it’s breakfast time for us and, as you would expect, milk plays a big part. Cereal, tea and coffee just wouldn’t be the same without milk and we love eating the yoghurt produced by a national company using our milk!
After breakfast, it’s back to the farm. At calving time, we have to keep an eye on the cows that might calve soon. There are always jobs to be done on the farm, especially during the winter.
Soon it’s lunch time, which is usually a cheese and pickle sandwich. Then it’s back to work, and before you know it it’s time for afternoon milking.
When the weather gets too cold and wet, the cows will come in and spend most of their time snoozing in their cubicles. We’ll feed them silage too, as there isn’t much grass around in the winter.
At about 5.30pm, after milking, it’s home time. We’ll have to check the cows that are in calf at 10pm. If they are calving, we’ll wait to see if they need a hand, or we’ll come back to check them between 12am and 1am. Farming is definitely not a 9–5 job!"
So, next time you’re picking up your pint in the shop, think about the farmers going to work and their early mornings and late nights looking after the cows, so that we can have milk in our tea and on our cereals when we wake up!