Day on farm an udder joy



Oamaru Mail reporter Jessie Waite visited the Butler’s farm in Pukeuri to try her hand at dairy milking…

Anybody who knows me well knows I’m not a morning person so setting my alarm for 3am was a painful task.

Luckily I was joining my long-time friend Emma Gaustad for a morning of dairy farming – so she knew what to expect when I arrived at the milking shed.

“How on earth can you get up this early every day?” I must have repeated to Emma about 10 times as we headed out on the quad bike to retrieve the second herd.

I moved to North Otago 10 months ago and it just so happened that Emma, who I have been friends with since I was 14, was working on the Butler’s farm in Pukeuri.

Now, being Taranaki born and bred, this wasn’t the first time I have “pulled tits”, but it had been a good six years since I had last been in a milking shed.

Emma said getting up before the roosters was easy for her and soon becomes a habit.

“I love getting up early in the morning,” she said. “I am a morning person and you get used to it.”

It certainly isn’t tropical at 4am, but I have to admit, I cheated a little bit. I opted to arrive in time to get in the second herd, rather than being there earlier for the first herd _ my sleep is far too precious.

I have always enjoyed the idea of farming; the challenges, working outdoors, productivity and working with animals. I almost took up agriculture as a career, completing NCEA credits at high school before journalism won me over.

I was a little anxious to get into the milking shed but as soon as I threw on my apron and gloves, it was all go. The amusing aspect of my morning in the shed was that I literally pulled tits.

We had to “strip” the cows to see if any were affected by mastitis (which is an infection in the udder), which meant manually milking to check the colour of the milk, before placing the cups on.

I was terrible at stripping the cows at first, but slowly got the hang of it. My other duty was to spray the teats after they were milked with a chlorine-based product to kill any bacteria.

It’s fair to say it didn’t take long before I was covered in cow poo, including my hair, face and arms. Delightful.

Emma hails from a sheep and beef farm in Uruti, Taranaki, and this was her first job as a milker.

She said she chose to work at a dairy farm due to the diversity of work and the opportunities.

“You can go quite far, quite quickly,” she said. “I love the variety of things you do. It changes day to day. One day you’re feeding silage, the next your picking up calves from the paddock.”

Emma said the number of female farmers is increasing. “Just because I’m a female means nothing to them,” she said. “I still do everything they do

When I was at the shed, we milked 475 cows, but at their herd peak, they milk 560.

Since living in Oamaru, I had never experienced a South Island sunrise _ but wow! It certainly made up for the early morning start.

I have to thank Emma, farm manager Chris Eden and the Butler’s for allowing me in the milking shed _ it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the industry.

Do you think your job would challenge Jessie? Contact her by calling 433 0536 or email


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