Over the past two days I have seen, handled, stepped in, and smelled every concieveable solid, liquid or entity that is naturally able to come out of a mammal's body. I now work on a dairy farm. The following is a short synopsis of the events leading up to my current state of employement
My summer co-op at a small New Jersey software company was nearly over, soon I would be making my return to the huge college town in the middle of nowhere and the hulking educational institution at it's center . This would mean I would need a job. There I sat at my desk during another lunch hour, I zipped on over to the undergraduate workstudy listing web page and was greeted by a littany of positions waiting to be filled.
Me being a computer person by nature, and by (hopefully) profession, not to mention having filled several computer related jobs over the past couple of years (from tech support to computer lab assistant), I decied I wanted to try somthing different. Quite truthfully I was tired of having to deal with stupid people and their stupid computers, and being paid nowhere near enough for it.
The listing on the help wanted page that caught my attention was the following: "DAIRY FAC." 'Dairy facility', I thought to my self, 'I can do that' "MILK COWS, NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED" 'Cows! I like Cows! Milk is good!! No experience!? I've got lots of that!'My fate was sealed. I copied down the contact information and proceeded to slack the rest of my lunch break away.
Having arrived at school and gotten all my stuff settled, I eventually got around to contacting the person in charge of the Universiy Dairy Facility. She was eager to get me to join them. She told me ,"it would be my opportunity to see it like it is, to discover that my food does not come off of a shelf". I accepted the position and was given some really nice hours to work.
I arrived on the premises at around 5pm. It was very bizzare, three or four blocks away from the center of a campus and right across the street from a football stadium sat this fully functional farm complete with dormitory. I parked my ride, wandered around abit, and eventually ended up where I needed to be, the milking parlor. As I entered this high tech barn, the familliar smell of cow manure forcefully invaded my nose, country music was blaring out of a single speaker crudly affixed just above my head over the doorway. It's layout was kind of like a gas station. Two rows of automated metal bars on an elevated concrete platform were situated on either side of me, with one central row fitted with various pumps between the two.
A short, older looking red headed fellow wearing a NASCAR t-shirt promptly introduced himself to me. "You must be Josh, I'm Tom, we're about to get started here, and you're just on time. The man went back to what he was doing before. I could hear some odd sound coming from the rear of the building, the sound of hooves clicking, and some infernal screaching muffled...cows. Some doors at the end of the barn whirred and clanked. A short blone girl and a taller guy lead some cows into either metal contraptions on my left and right. The cows were systematicly packed in rows, their udders becoming perfectly aligned with the pumps in the central lane. One of the cows proceeded to take a large pizza sized dump right in front of my face. The fecal matter fell out the beast, like water over a fall (or chocolate over a fall from cocoa puffs commercials). That is when the pain began. I had never actually smelled anything that litteraly made me feel pain before. For the first time, the smell of fresh cow shit induced an annoying, undescribable pain.
The red haired man returned and gave a quick run down on how to milk a cow. "First you gotta dip 'em" He pulls out this small gun with a cup filled with some brown solution, and applies it to all four teats of a near by cow. "Then strip 'em" He gives each nipple a good yank, causing milk to splurt out, and wipes each one off. "Then hook 'em" He then presses start on a piece of machinery and grabs one of the nearby array of pumps, attaching it to one of the cows. The pumps begin milking away, emitting quiet pump noises *pumppumppump...* It was a simple task. Four hours flew by and good amount of cows were milked. The barn was now to be cleaned, which was easy with the aid of large fire hose like devices.
By 9pm, the day was over, I hopped on my bike and went back to my dorm, where I promptly took a shower.
Again I arrived back at the dairy facility on my bike. I entered the milking parlor only to find it empty. I sat around for a while, untill the red haired man appeared again (this time wearing a different NASCAR t-shirt). I was told just to follow him.
We made our way to another smaller barn that contained a cow laying down, and wet calf laying just beside it. There was what seemed to be some fresh after birth layingaround, the calf had just been born a few hours ago. The mother of this calf was laying on it's side looking kinda stunned (I too would be stunned if I just delivered a pair of 110lb calfs). Our presence there was kinda useless, we tried to get the newly appointed (soon to be unappointed) mother to drink some type of medicine but it just sat there. The calf would unfortunately have to be moved later that evening.
Another evening of automated milking flew by rather qucikly. After all the cows had been milked, it was then time to put them away. Me and some other student (a veteran at this type of stuff) were given this task. We led the cows to a small barn. Essentially, the goal is to match the numbered cow with it's stall. Some of the cows are smart, they know where they have to go (maybe they can count), the rest of them are a different matter. Cows can be coaxed into their proper place, by either yelling at them or beating them senseless. The guy I was working with liked the latter. His primary tool was "GET IN THE FUCKING STALL YOU FUCKING BITCH!", and if that did not work his other method is hit the cow with the closest available item such as a fist, hat, or shovel. The whole process took us about 2 hours of beating and yelling at the poor critters.
My second day concluded with the separating of a calf from it's mother. Me, the cow beater, another dairy employee went back to retrive the baby calf. We hoiseted it's heavy, yet limp body into the back of a pick up truck, and carted it over to the calf barn. The calf's mother was mooing in protest the entire time. Kina sad actually.
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