A visit to a daily goat farm (Photo : Lindsay lover)
This past year, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the other end of the world. New Zealand is a country apart, with its two islands offering many different natural landscapes, from snowy, cold mountains and lush green hills, to oceanside beaches, to geysers and hot springs. I spent nine months in New Zealand on an international agricultural exchange, where I worked on a dairy farm in the North Island.
Dairy farming in this country is incomparable to the Canadian way. Cows are grazed outdoors all year long and all calve during the same period of the year. All aspects of farm operation are aimed toward simplicity and cost reduction. Cows are milked in open milking parlours with rooves, and they live mostly on the grass the land provides. Our herd comprised of 180 milking cows, made up of Holsteins,Jerseys and crossbreds, which I was involved in milking and managing daily. The average dairy farm in New Zealand has 500 cows, so our farm was smalt by their standards. The milk production system in that country works without quota and has mostly an export market, mainly to eastern Asia, thus the farmers need to produce large quantities of milk while reducing their costs and labour. I learned a thing or two about producing extremely efficient milk from what I saw on the farm in New Zealand.
I came to know New Zealanders, or Kiwis as they call themselves, as warm and inviting people. I, on several occasions, visited with people I had never seen before in my life and was treated as if I knew them already. Although society there has been strongly influenced by North American culture in many ways, Kiwis still have a strong sense of culture, especially the numerous native people, the Maori. Kiwis have their own distinct accent and personalities, much like Australians.
It took me a Little white to understand the different words used for things like tools and machines. By the end of my stay, however, I had adjusted well and come to think much like them. I also came to know many other young people on the same exchange, from other parts of Canada, Denmark, France, Norway, Germany and the U.K., and we became very good friends during our stay.
My stay in New Zealand also allowed me to travel and see the great sights of the country. While the North Island had its many wonders, the South Island was where I found all the breathtaking sights. On any given day you could travel through green, flat plains, then along the ocean, and finally by crystal clear lakes and rivers. You see glaciers and snow-capped mountains and in the same day lush forest and valleys. You can stay overnight on a boat and see seals feeding at night, or dolphins swimming early in the morning. I spent some time on the beach, which was never far away from anywhere and spent much time doing outdoor activities with the many other trainees on my exchange program. New Zealand offers great hospitality and culture along with great natural beauty.
My exchange to New Zealand has provided me with a lifetime of memories and valuable experience. I have learned much about farming from where I was and have also had the chance to see a part of the world not many people get to see. It has been truly rewarding.
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