Unfair share falls on the milker

The first year on a farm can be a bit of a drag. As the season goes along, you discover all the traps left there by previous neglect - the broken fencepost propped up permanently temporarily, poised to fall down just as you are gingerly taking the bulls past, or the electric fence that has been permanently temporarily disconnected because of a massive short, which is the only thing between the cows, the hole in the boundary fence and the main road.

In my farming career, I have found plenty of these elephant traps on farms, often the hard way.

At my first sharemilking job, there was a huge hole on the boundary fence where a hedge didn't quite meet the electric fence.

Of course, one of my cows, which had recently had a calf, discovered the hole on its mission to find the calf I had taken away from it.

Searching for her baby, she wandered out on to the road in front of a car whose driver was changing a CD.

She rolled right over the car, almost crushing it, and it was only a miracle that there were no serious injuries.

I remember searching for the cow in the dark and called out to her, "Are you all right?"

Funnily enough, the shocked driver of the car thought I meant him and answered weakly, "Yes, but I think I've broken my little finger".

I remember thinking, "I don't mean you, bucko", which could indicate I had my priorities wrong.

However, the lack of Warrant of Fitness and registration on his Morris Minor meant he was quite happy to accept $500 cash and walk away, so the insurance company wasn't involved with that one.

A few years later, I was at a new sharemilking job and was told to graze the roadside, something I don't like doing, because that is asking for trouble.

Anyway, like a fool, I assumed there was power on in the fence but, of course, there wasn't. This time, eight cows got on the road and caused a car accident.

Again, thankfully, there were no injuries, but the vehicle was badly damaged. Public liability insurance covered that one, but now my excess is a king's ransom.

However, a lesson has been learnt - never, ever assume there is power on in the fence, especially by the road.

I've left a fortune behind me on farms where no-one will take responsibility for major faults like effluent systems and shonky milking machinery, and because the buck stops with the sharemilker, I have invariably forked out to fix things.

If the milking machines aren't right, the result is usually cows not milking out properly, which means mastitis, which means grades.

Grades are dairy-company penalties which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars if you're not careful, forcing sharemilkers to spend money on fixing things stubborn, head-in-the-sand farm owners refuse to acknowledge.

This is an expensive business no matter which way you look at it.

Because I have leased my current farm for four years, when I found the teat spray system and vacuum pump needed serious money spent on them, I decided to bite the bullet and just pay to fix them.

I was feeling really happy that I had taken positive action and addressed some serious faults, even though I can ill afford paying for the repairs. Doing nothing would have cost me more in the long run.

So happy me was going out to get the cows in, only to discover two dead in the paddock - bloat. *%#$@*&^!

Waikato Times