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Saturday, April 2, 2016

New Zealand's World-Class Milky Way

In New Zealand, sharing the road with dairy cows headed toward
heir milking station is not uncommon.  Many dairy farms build
tunnels under the highway for their cows to cross between
paddocks and to the milking stations
New Zealand's cows ruined my cruising provisioning strategy - their milk is just too good!

Over nearly 16,000 miles sailing over the last few years, most of it far, far away from the convenience of “fresh products” from a grocery store, most of my milk came from reconstituted powder.  That suited my galley provisioning goal of taking up the least possible amount of boat space, at the lightest possible weight at an affordable price to meet our needs.  As a sailor, the link between Anchor’s maritime name and New Zealand’s reputation for quality made it my favorite dairy brand.




While dogs still play an integral role in herding, humans ride ATVs
and specialized motorcycles like these instead of horses for
roundups.  We’ve seen herding dogs on ATVs, too,
though not driving them.



Overall, most of my life, when not cruising, I’ve simply thought of milk as enjoyable beverage pulled off the shelf at the grocery store.  

Then New Zealand arrival heralded our access to its very special terra firma-based milky way. At 30 million head, sheep versus 11 million may be more bountiful than bovines here in the Land of the Long White Cloud (aka New Zealand), though cows struck us as a more dominant force in our travels.  Cows still outnumber people here nearly 4 to 1.














A view of a small milking trough station, before the herd saunters 
in.  This one holds 18 cows on each side, thus 36 at a time
are milked together.



Here in New Zealand you’ll hear the mainstream urban rock radio station ad for “cow processing” services.  Highway stock effluent stations are more common than transport truck weigh stations.  And then there's all the signs for "Home Kill" - but that's a topic for another post....

CSNBC refers to dairy farming as a an integral part of what makes the country an economic "rockstar." New Zealand is the top dairy exporter accounting for around a third of the world's trade. 







This curious cow in the milking station knew we didn’t belong
and kept an uneasy eye on us.  We backed further away, to avoid
disrupting the milking process.




With annual milk product exports in excess of NZ$13.7 billion, according to the dairy companies association of New Zealand, dairy industry is the country’s biggest export earner, accounting for more than 29% by value of the country’s merchandise exports.  Around 95% of New Zealand’s milk is exported. Anchor brand was nearly ubiquitous in our travels across the South Pacific.














Kiwis Liz and Dennis, who generously
showed us their spread.

Thus, when our kind Kiwi friends Dennis and Liz gave us a gander at the milking operation on their property, we appreciated the opportunity to observe firsthand this major component of New Zealand culture and economy.  While busy doing other day jobs, Liz (schoolteacher) and Dennis (works in the energy industry) used to run the milking business themselves. Now they lease it to Rod, who currently runs it.


















Suctions cups hang ready in the milk station
for hookup to the cow’s udders.


With about 100 cows, Rod’s operation is considered a smaller dairy farm.  Yet it’s still ample enough for the cows to rotate every week or from one to the next of 56 large fresh green grass paddocks. “All the rain’s been great for the cows this year,” commented Dennis, approvingly.

Happy cows makes for unhappy campers.  We were less than thrilled about this unusually wet summer as it definitely impacted our travel plans.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, every other day, the milk from Rod’s operation gets picked by Fonterra, each time draining the chilled ~4500-5000 liter milk tank. Fonterra, the largest of three co-operative New Zealand dairy companies is owned by over 10,500 dairy farmers, processing around 22 billion liters of milk. 






As the suction cup is attached to the rudders of each cow
in the station, milking commences, with the hoses carrying
the milk up, up, and away.

On our road trips, most days we bought small quantities of fresh New Zealand milk in our travels as we had no refrigeration.   But once, there were a few too many days between store stops….













As the suction cup is attached to
the rudders of each cow in the station,
milking commences, with the hoses
carrying the milk up, up, and away.


"This coffee tastes like s---," Wayne justifiably opined when we ran out of fresh milk whilst camping on our New Zealand road trip.  I resorted to the backup whole milk powder, standard fare while cruising, though normally it's premixed at chilled in our boat fridge.  We'd gotten too used to the good stuff, readily available from the grocery store, gas station... just about anyplace where there's products being sold from a refrigerator.


Udderly relieved, these milked cows step more lively on their way out.
Those city folks… looking down on the rest of us.  They wouldn’t know how to milk a cow if they tried,” complains a quintessentially Kiwi character in Jonathan Tinsdale’s delightful Squashed Possums: Off the beaten track in New Zealand. Ummm, yeah, she’s mostly right.  Thanks to Dennis, Liz, and watching Rod, I do have a little better idea how.  Admittedly, I’m quite grateful they didn’t offer to give me a go. 



Even for this relatively small dairy farm, the sterilized, chilled milk
collection tank is substantial, roughly 4500 – 5000 liters
(over 1,200 US gallons).

Nevertheless, fresh, just-a-few-days-from-the-cow milk is one of many treats we will miss from New Zealand, though not as much as the warm Kiwi hospitality we experienced more times than we can count.




















Roadside stock effluent disposal
sites are common in
New Zealand.  We’re grateful 
they’re there to minimize “that
stuff” from getting splattered
on the roads.


Location Location
We're back on a pole mooring in Whangarei’s Town Basin Marina (S35.43.412 E174.19.539), We went road-tripping around North Island for about a week; lost of good stuff to catch up on in the post.



Eventually will post my short vid of Rod milking his cows.

















This clarifying pond processes the other bovine liquids that flow,
and helps keep the grass paddocks green.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  Budget permitting, we will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Vanuatu then Australia.  We plan to sell our boat in Australia and return to work - somewhere.