Down on the farm – NZ farms open day.

Sunday 1st March was “Open Gate Day” for many New Zealand farms, a time to let the public in to see how farms are run.

Our farm of choice was Lindsay Farm, near Waipukurau, in Central Hawke’s Bay. Why this farm you ask? Even if you didn’t ask, I’m still going to tell you. Lindsay Farm is where we as a family, and as shareholders in the herd of cows, get our milk from. Not just any old milk though. The milk from Lindsay Farm is delicious, straight from the cow, raw milk… it was intended to be. See their website for full details (link at foot of page).

The farm, run by the Ashton family, is a great place to visit to see the animals and the paddocks at their best….their healthiest. The dairy herd feed on mixed pasture….no boring mono-crop grass for these cows…a cornucopia of vegetation grown on organic principles, as you’ll see from the photos below, helps to keep the animals in tip top condition to produce quality wholesome milk.

After parking in a paddock and deftly negotiating our way through the minefield of cow pats, we had a wander around the farm taking a look at the cows and the free range chickens. The “chooks” are free to wander pretty much everywhere, but tend to stay within range of the grain feeder in the chook houses. They even get in amongst the grazing cows in the next paddock. Their habit of scratching the earth looking for bugs and worms helps to turn the cows manure into healthy soil, which in turn helps to produce healthy grasses to feed the cows, which in turn produces our delicious, nutritious milk. And naturally the chickens produce eggs – organic free range eggs. As the cows are rotated to the next paddock (to prevent over grazing – giving the grasses a chance to recover and thrive), the chickens and their mobile “chook houses” follow. It’s a great system.

As you can see from the photos above, the hens have their needs met very nicely here on the farm. The mobile “chook houses” are airy and clean with plenty of room and a choice of roosts on perches at night. Dust baths (see top row right hand pic) are a necessary part of chickens health. Not only do they help keep their feathers clean and control oil on the skin and feathers, they also keep away parasites like lice and ticks.

Paul Ashton talks about the milking procedure.

Next up was a visit to the milking yard where Paul, the head of this farming family, took us through the milking procedure, including the chilling and bottling of the milk. Because the milk is raw untreated milk, everything possible is done to make sure hygiene standards are not just adhered to, but are regularly surpassed. The herd is a small dairy herd and those who deal with the cows get to know each one personally – their habits and mannerisms, their usual behaviour patterns – and can soon spot if a cow is a little under the weather. This being the case, the cow is separated from the others at milking time and given a thorough checking out. If there is any doubt about the health of the cow, it still has to be milked, but the milk does not end up in bottles.

My family has been drinking raw milk from Lindsay Farm for many years and have only felt the better, health-wise, for doing so. Having seen the way that the cows are looked after, the mixed pasture, the rotating of paddocks and the way the milking shed is run I can see why Lindsay Farms milk is so sought after (despite the efforts of the M.P.I to make life as difficult as they can – but that’s another story). It really is a wonderful product.

After our farm tour we wandered down to a bend in the little river, that runs through the farm, where a marquee, coffee cart and a couple of food trucks had been set up, for lunch. Close by the marquee was a stall operated by Farmhouse Kitchen of Middle Road, Havelock North – who gave demonstrations of cheese making and fermented foods. A little later in the afternoon a band played for a couple of hours in the marquee – very good entertainment – and there was a colouring in and calf naming competition for the kids. Also for the kids, although I can bet that there were a few adults itching to give it a go too, was a water slide. It was a warm day so many of the young ones took advantage of the water slide, or a paddle in the river, to cool off.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a late summers afternoon. Informative and enjoyable. As usual thank you for reading. Until next post…..

I tried to include links to Lindsay Farm NZ and for Farmhouse Kitchen’s websites but for some reason the WordPress editor keeps rejecting them. Click on the links and if they don’t connect, please type into your browser for Lindsay Farm and for Farmhouse Kitchen. Useful information and contact details can be found on both sites.

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