12 September 1997

Gipsy Week sees cows hit the road

Here we are in early August, and the annual rush of spring calving is well under way, with 70 in out of a total of 365. Its an exciting time here at Thorpe Hill Farm, with a new sharemilker, and therefore a complete new herd of cows, a new farm worker and a new house as well.

The winter has been kind, so we look forward to the new season with confidence.

Change-over time for the dairy season in New Zealand is June 1 and things become rather hectic on the country roads with many thousands of cows being walked from one farm to another. We call it Gipsy Week and its not unusual to round the corner of a country lane and have 200-300 cows ambling towards you. Or worse – going the same way!

Our new sharemilker had a 30k walk for his 365 cows and 50 followers, setting off at first light on May 31. About 10 of his mates assisted; vehicles out front and behind with flashing lights, dogs barking for no reason and farmers talking about payout prospects etc.

Unfortunately it was one of the few wet days weve had this winter which made extra caution necessary. 20ks were covered the first day and after an overnight stay at a friends farm, we completed the journey at lunchtime on June 1. Herds that have to travel longer distances are trucked.

With a new sharemilker and also a new farm worker, extra housing was needed here, so it was decided to move a new house on. This is quite the norm in this country, with many people deciding for varying reasons that they want to remain where they are but in a different house, so they sell the one theyre in for removal. Prices received vary according to age, condition and style but are generally less than half of a new one, but you need time to get one that suits.

Lacking the patience I decided to go for a purpose-built unit and have the thing on the farm in three weeks. It worked out at $NZ64000 landed. We then had services to connect, septic tank, telecom, power, water etc. These added a further $NZ7,000 so completed it ended up costing $NZ71,000. Thats around £28,000.

Its standard practice in New Zealand to provide a free house for all married farm workers. Ive often thought about moving houses in Britain. But your narrow, busy roads would provide obstacles, while your homes are built of heavier materials because of the climate and would therefore need bigger lorries.

Somehow I cant see that 360 cows strolling up the A1 with a house on a lorry following, would go down too well with the motorists!

I have to be over soon to see my little granddaughter, do some shooting and watch the All Blacks give your rugby team a lesson. Cheers!

Peter Haigh.

RO.I, Putaruru.

Left:View from kitchen window of the new house. Below:A bulldozer helps the move over the steeper terrain. Bottom:The transporter pulls out and the pile digger is ready to start work.

Above: Three hours after arrival on site the house is ready to be lowered onto the piles.