KATE, RED, Ann and Darky are probably four of the luckiest cows in Australia.
The former dairy cows have found a home on a 162ha sheep farm owned by Robyn and Ken Richards from Terip, near Mansfield.
Robyn has grown up with the ritual of milking.
She had a couple of dry old girls and was looking to crank up her milk supply again.
“I have had a house cow all my life and when we had our own kids, I wanted them to learn milk comes from a cow and not the supermarket, so I just continued on,” Robyn said.
When Robyn saw a Facebook post from Yalca dairy farmer Steve Dalitz seeking homes for some of his girls because he was selling his herd, Robyn got in contact.
“I was aware of how much the dairy industry and farmers were hurting and I wanted to do something,” she said.
Robyn had every intention of taking only one cow, but the ensuing conversations saw her end up with two — Kate and Red.
“When I agreed to take two cows I had no idea where Steve’s dairy farm even was — it could have been anywhere in Australia and I was thinking ‘Oh my God I have just bought two cows and I don’t even know where from’,” she laughed.
Luckily for Robyn, Steve was only about an hour away, so transporting the cows proved to be no major drama and the girls settled well into their new life.
Kate is a Friesian and Red is a red Shorthorn, although she has since had a name change to Maddie to match the tag in her ear.
“Kate calved first, and it took a bit to get her to stand in her outdoor bail for one, but she got the hang of it she was back in production pretty quickly,” Robyn said.
“All the cows have adapted well, which is a credit to Steve as they are not scared, which tells me that they have been treated well in his dairy.”
Robyn said she continued to keep in contact with Steve to offer support through his transition of selling his herd and the two have now become friends.
Steve had kept a few old cows he knew he could only sell as choppers — Ann (an old cow with a bung eye) and Darky, an old Jersey.
With Anne springing in early December Steve messaged Robyn in the hope she might like to add to her herd.
Ken thought four milking cows was a bit of overkill for a family of three, but Robyn couldn’t resist, especially when Steve decided to throw in Darky the Jersey.
“Ken wasn’t too excited, but I couldn’t bear to think of Darky as a chopper, so home she came, and she is just a delight,” Robyn said.
“Ken has warmed to all the girls, especially Darky and she is his favourite — she is so quiet when you feed her, she comes right up and puts her head in the bucket.”
The cows are kept with their calves and are milked on a rotation system.
Milking is a family affair with all the pets on farm in attendance.
“We lock the calves up together overnight and milk just one of the cows,” Robyn said.
“We obviously don’t need all the milk from four cows, but we do have four dogs and two cats who always hang around for a drink.”
Robyn said she loved the sense of calm that came from milking a cow every day.
“There is no phone, no internet, just peace and quiet,” she said.
“It only takes me 15 minutes by the time I say hello to the girls.”
With four milking cows Robyn is now looking at leasing a Murray Grey bull to get them all back in calf.
“We will often eat one of the calves and I think it is a better end for the animal when it is put down on farm. Kate’s calf is out of a Wagyu bull and has been ear tagged for our meat supply in 2021,” she said.
Robyn laughs at the thought of how she has doubled her milking herd in just six months.
“All our cows will stay here with us on the farm until they die, they won’t be going anywhere else,” she said.