Icelanders check out Kiwi dairying

PETRICE TARRANT
Last updated 05:00 13/07/2014
Icelandic couple farm in NZ.
Fairfax NZ

NEW WORLD: Sigridur Gudbjartsdottir, left, and Didrik Vilhjalmsson say there are very few similarities between New Zealand and Iceland dairy farming.

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One daring Icelandic couple have travelled 17,000 kilometres to see what it is like milking 800 cows on a Mangakino farm instead of the typical 50 back home.

It has certainly been a shock for Sigridur Gudbjartsdottir and Didrik Vilhjalmsson.

The couple, who informally call themselves Sirry and Diddi, landed the Sandel Rd job via Fonterra's website.

Diddi said they are slowly learning that the only similarity between New Zealand and Icelandic dairy farming is probably the fact that the cows are milked twice a day.

"The first day we came we went out to the field and met 600 cows. I've never seen that many at one time before."

That is not surprising considering the average herd size back in Iceland is around 50 compared to New Zealand's 400.

And it is not just the herd size that is bigger.

"It was a bit scary, the cows are much bigger than ours. The average Icelandic cow is a small New Zealand cow," Sirry said.

The 26-year-old said she comes from a farming family who own 2000 hectares on which live 35 cows, 600 sheep and 30 horses.

Such a small dairy herd makes milking a bit more personal, Sirry said. "When you have 35 cows they all have names ... so it's a bit different."

The country has close to 700 dairy farms which produce about 120 million litres of milk per year.

In the year ending June 2012 New Zealand dairy companies processed 19.1 billion litres of milk, according to godairy.co.nz.

Weather conditions mean Icelandic herds are kept in a barn for nine months of the year, each cow with its own fitting unit to stand in.

"They are taken out twice a day to be milked and they can take a little walk. Otherwise they are there all day," Sirry said.

"Free range" cows live in a special barn where they can lie down, she said.

Diddi, 30, said they arrived in the country for the first time just in time for Fieldays - another huge culture shock.

He said the closest Iceland comes to holding anything similar would be an event they attended in May where they saw 10 stands with tractors.

"And that was large."

They were the only people from Iceland registered at the event - the first time the Fieldays has had Icelanders registered in about five years, Diddi said.

-Waikato Farmer

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