I look after 350 dairy cows (+ about 150 followers) in the South of England. I am here to answer all of your questions, especially the controversial ones. Bare in mind I can only speak for myself and my farm, not the industry as a whole.

Proof: Imgur (sorry about the lighting in that pic. Shed + dirty phone case + excitable calf = poor quality photo!)

I also spent a year in Middle Earth where I milked cows and wrote a blog if you have plenty of time to waste: http://flinnz.blogspot.co.uk/

EDIT: Front Page! I am pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction (86% upvoted). Thanks.

EDIT: Thanks for the questions, I have to go now, and I dont expect I shall be back. In fact I mean not to. Goodbye. (I might actually be back).

Comments: 2364 • Responses: 103  • Date: 

Mick-Jenkins15 karma

a) How hard is to get into the dairy farming industry if you live in a rural area. what kinds of qualifications would assist in becoming a dairy farmer?

b) Is the work strenuous with long hours? what is a dairy farmers usual tasks throughout the day?

gannet-on-a-rock23 karma

a) If you are prepared to put in the effort, not at all. The step onto the first rung is way harder than the rest. You dont need any qualifications. You just need the ability to learn. Most farmers are happy to teach in exchange for a bit of free weekend labour!

b) Yes it is, but I would 100% rather be doing this than sat in an office! See other post for typical day.

LegendofPedro14 karma

How many penis in milking machine stories do you have?

gannet-on-a-rock51 karma

None obviously. there is quite a powerful vacuum there. Uncomfortably powerful I would imagine.

dublinirish11 karma

what is your quota?

gannet-on-a-rock28 karma

No quotas in the UK! We sell as much as we can. Assuming by your username, you are Irish, and soon there will be no quotas there too.

freygrimrod10 karma

What breed of cow?

gannet-on-a-rock25 karma

We have a big mixture going on. Originally Holstein x Montbeliarde. Now we are breeding British Friesian, NZ Friesian, Kiwicross (Friesian/Jersey) and Swedish Red.

I_Will_Try_More12 karma

I milk Jerseys and a few Friesians and some British Whites. A lot of people tell me that Jersey have a bad temper but I have not found this to be the case. Out of all your cows what breed do you find to the the worst temper?

gannet-on-a-rock20 karma

Montbeliardes. Without a shadow of a doubt. It doesnt help by the fact that they are about 10 times bigger than a Jersey either!

aresdonuts6 karma

Has anyone ever tried to steal one of your cattle?

gannet-on-a-rock11 karma

Er nope. I think castle rustling is a crime of a bygone age!

confusedstudent36 karma

How do you feel, ethically, about raping mothers, separating them from their children, and then killing them when they're old enough for veal?

gannet-on-a-rock8 karma

That sounds terrible. If you are talking about humans. Which you are not. You are using human terms to describe animals, whom I believe view life differently to humans. A bull doesnt take a cow out on dates then marry her then have kids. The bull 'rapes' the cow when she is on heat. In my opinion as a cow expert, the cow is unaffected by the process in which she gets pregnant.

Separating the calf from the mother is sometimes tricky. As humans, we put human feelings onto animals. So we think the cow is feeling how a human would feel if the same happened to them. This is not true IMO. The cow realises she has no longer got the calf with her. Some cows immediately carry on with their life and forget instantly. Others have the natural maternal instinct to look for their calf or call for it for a short while. Then they too forget and concentrate on other things like looking for food.

So to answer your question, I feel perfectly fine about the processes I use to produce milk.

ZenjaDUB5 karma

How does it feel to stroke an utter?

gannet-on-a-rock9 karma

exactly how you imagine.

kdsbam5 karma

Hi. My girlfriend would love to work on a farm, what would be the best way she could do this?

gannet-on-a-rock19 karma

Ask a local farmer if you can help for free. Get good at the job, he will teach you. When you are good, he might offer to pay you. If not use the experience as a reference for an advertised job.

TheFloorLamp4 karma

Hi there, is 'permeate free' milk really worth it considering it occurs naturally? Thanks

gannet-on-a-rock10 karma

Permeate is what is left after the fat and protein is taken out of milk (for cheese etc). If this is put back into milk it is essentially watering down the milk. Although there are still vits and mins in permeate.

daphski4 karma

Im from Taranaki, where abouts were you while you were here in NZ?

gannet-on-a-rock9 karma

North Otago, near Oamaru. South Island is waaaaaaaaaaaay better!

djbeat1234 karma

Are all the cows pasteurized or homogenized... Do you know If anything is added to the milk when distributed?

gannet-on-a-rock23 karma

It is the milk that is pasteurized and homogenized not the cows! Things are generally just taken out of the milk. If it is chocolate milk though, chocolate is added I believe.

freygrimrod2 karma

So does the UK not add vitamin D?

gannet-on-a-rock3 karma

I dont think so. I am at the other end of the industry, production rather than processing so I could be wrong.

noeatnosleep3 karma

How did you start?

Would you recommend this career to young people?

gannet-on-a-rock6 karma

I did a degree in Agriculture and Animal Science, which included a year of work experience. I did it on a dairy farm, and that got me into it

You have to love it to do it. It is a lifestyle not a job. Yes I would recommend it though. Get a good tan, no need to go to the gym, working with cute calves really attracts the ladies, I live and work in a beautiful part of the world, I dont have to commute. IMO there are way more positives than negatives!

LilMoWithTheGimpyLeg3 karma

I've heard if you drink gold top, unpasteurized milk, you'll get sick because of all the anitbiotics. Is this true? What if I go to a local farmer who doesn't give his cows any drugs?

gannet-on-a-rock13 karma

No that is not true. Antibiotics are never in milk that is sold. The milk is tested in every tanker that leaves the farm, there are huge fines to the farmer if antibiotics are present. If there is a farmer that does not treat his cows with drugs, then I assume he is guilty of bad animal welfare and neglect. It is his duty to cure any sickness in his animals. Obviously prevention is better than cure, but I can guarantee that every dairy farm at some point will need to use drugs.

Legendary2123 karma

Hi there! You said that you chose to go into dairy. How did you go about setting up your farm? I mean did you build your milking parlour and buy the land or inherit it?

gannet-on-a-rock4 karma

I am employed by someone who is in a business partnership with someone else who rents the land from the land owner. So I dont own the cows or land or buildings. The farm has been here for generations, and is constantly being updated and developed.

typie3123 karma

Do you have any secret dairy recipes?

gannet-on-a-rock5 karma

Mix 4 parts chilled whole milk with 1 part strawberry Crusha into pint glass. Drink.

PmButtPics4ADrawing3 karma

I recently calculated that it would take 7,883 human nipples to replace an average dairy farm. What, in your opinion, are the implications of this?

gannet-on-a-rock9 karma

Someone would have to be very busy impregnating the owners of those nipples so they produce milk.

gannet-on-a-rock8 karma

Also an odd number of nipples would mean you would probably need a scaramanga type person?

MisterParty2 karma

Are you disgusted at all with the dairy practices in the US vs that of the UK? We do things differently here (or so I've been led to believe) and we even have "European Style" butter, which is corporate speak for well-treated-cow butter.

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

I cant really comment on the US industry, as I have next to no knowledge of it.

Lilly7412 karma

Do you have any help doing this job? How many people?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

We have three full time and one part time workers. As well as contracting out major tractor work such as silaging.

Full_Bleed2 karma

Do you aspire to be as cool as this guy? Or are all dairy farmers this cool? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr0pmfHZuH4

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

I do now. And no they are not. What a hero.

l3ahamut2 karma

Two parter:

Do you use your dairy to make milkshakes?

If yes, does your milkshake bring all the boys to the yard?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

Yes. and yes, the girls more so though.

CatChowder2 karma

Whats the most interesting/bizzare flavor of potato chip youve seen on your travels?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma


CatChowder1 karma

Whats that? where did you get it?

CatChowder2 karma

What do you feel about Scottish Independence?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

Very sad day if it happens.

CatChowder2 karma

Did you ever visit Hobbitton?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

Yes. I love it. I am a total LOTR nerd.

CatChowder1 karma

If you could adopt a sigil or symbol from the LOTR world, what would you take? I would take the white tree

gannet-on-a-rock1 karma

I would definitely from Rohan. So that horse probably.

My-Wife-Spanks-Me2 karma

Was it hard learning how to inseminate cows? What's the most you've ever paid for sperm?

(I'm the grandson of a dairyman, so good job!)

gannet-on-a-rock8 karma

Yes it is like trying to put a straw in a live goldfishes mouth, in the dark, while a boa constrictor squeezes you arm. We tend not to spend much more than £15 per straw.

CatChowder1 karma

Whats your favorite: 1) book(s) 2) Movie(s) 3) TV series?

gannet-on-a-rock3 karma

  1. Roald Dahls short stories.

  2. Lord of the Rings

  3. Entourage, Californication, Suits, Homeland, Spooks, Spartacus, Game of Thrones.

the115doctor1 karma

Do you drink your own cow's milk?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

yes. not directly from the tit though.

fosforito131 karma

Can you tell apart the cows you have in your herd and do you see an patterns of personality in them, as in some are happier than other or stubborn? Do you think cows recognize you? And have you ever gotten attached to one particular cow?

gannet-on-a-rock1 karma

I am less skilled than most dairy farmers in recognizing my cows! I generally go by their numbers. But there is many of them whom I recognise by their pattern and personality. Yes the cows know me, from my voice etc. Yes but it is not a good idea to get attached to one cow, at some point they will be sent away for slaughter.

fosforito131 karma

Thanks for answering, this whole threat is a very interesting read. And with so many cows, do you milk them by hand or use the machines? Do you think that process has changed flavor in the milk? I mean to say maybe cows are more relaxed when milked by hand and that could change the composition of the milk.

gannet-on-a-rock1 karma

We use machines. Would need about 300 people to milk them by hand! I think the cows would prefer 5 minutes in a milking parlour with the machine, than 30/45 minutes of standing still while someone pulls on their tits.

BartBoucher1 karma

You say your cows are mostly grass feed. What work do you have to do to maintain that pasture? Do you ever need to fertilize it, or mow it, or anything? Unless you don't have pasture and the grass is brought in? if so, please describe the work behind that. Thanks:-)

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma

Our grazing pasture is split into relatively small paddocks. The cows are given a small section twice a day. This way they eat it from about 6 inches high down to about 1 inch in half a day. After they have eaten the grass, they dont go back on it until it has regrown. This system means they eat the whole of the leaf (and stem) of the grass rather than just picking at the tastier bits at the top of the plant as they would if they were in a large area. Removing the cows immediately allows the grass to grow back quickly without being eaten before it is fully grown again. This is the most efficient way of utilizing grass. We fertilize it regularly with Nitrogen based fertiliser. Occasionally mow it if it gets too long and stemmy. and therefore unpalatable. In the spring when the grass grows quickest we have too much for the cows to keep on top of. So we cut it and store it as silage, for the winter months when the grass does not grow at all.

zeshixia1 karma

How many calfings do you do a year?

Do you make your own supplement feed or buy it?

The biggest difference you saw between kiwi and english dairy farms?

gannet-on-a-rock2 karma


Buy in supplement feed, but we dont use much. Our cows are very much on a grass based diet.

In England dairy farms are generally smaller, family businesses. Often sticking to more traditional methods (to there own detriment IMO). In NZ, they tend to be much more progressive, and with less costs, but lower output. It is a very diifferent market.

zeshixia1 karma

Was referring to if you had more then one calving season, not the number of calves :P I also really hope you don't have 350 calves born a season because that is a crazy number. Do you get many with milk fever? My family farm was a Spring and Autumn calving. We also noticed that our autumn cows produced a fair amount more milk then our spring cows. Ever noticed anything similar in your production?

We have to produce and buy in enough feed to last us summer and winter. We use to have maize in summer, over most of our 120acre flood flats and that would last us most of summer and a bit into autumn. Winter was the time we would feed out our own silage, and at our worst we were feeding 7 silage rolls twice a day for all of winter and until the sun and rain decided to come out in spring. This is also with the grain they get fed in the dairy.

I never got much of a chance to see Kiwi farming, but we have a ridiculous number of kiwi farmers buying dairy farms in Australia. We call them milk barons, given their incredibly large NZ dairy production!

gannet-on-a-rock1 karma

Sorry my mistake! No we have one autumn block which we are currently about a third of the way through. Yes with 350 cows/heifers calving between about 20th August until end of November. It is insanely busy at this time of year. But it means we can relax in the spring and summer.

We produce all our own silage (maize and grass) and just buy in cake (pellets) for in the parlour as well as wheatfeed and rapeseed to mix in with the silage in the clamp. Cows are in for minimal time in the winter and self feed at the silage clamp face. We are a very dry farm hence why we are autumn calving, minimal cows producing milk in summer when nothing grows! Once it is grass growing season, they only eat grass and cake in the parlour.

hmaxim1 karma

When did you start working with the cows?

gannet-on-a-rock3 karma

Been around cows all of my life. being paid to work with them, for about 4 years now.

AbjectMark1 karma

I used to work for Ecosyl/Volac, and they make all sorts of things for dairy farming. Do you use innoculants? If so, which ones do you use/avoid?

gannet-on-a-rock1 karma

We use some silage additives, cant think off the top of my head who makes them though.

forte_bass0 karma

After playing wirh cow tits all day, have you ever looked at one of your cows and thought to yourself, "I'd hit that?" Did you?

How about the bulls?

gannet-on-a-rock4 karma

I think the bulls think that yes...