Monday, 18 June 2012


During my primary school days I used to have three ribbons hanging above my bed. Made of pressed felt and decorated with agricultural monograms, each reflected an achievement in the local Calf Club Day.

The highest award I managed was a blue ribbon for second place and this was hung around a calf's neck in the judging ring.  For my successes were based on the fact that I lived in a small town that services the local rural community in Taranaki, one of New Zealand's main dairying provinces.

Ian Aitken
Old School Friends
And one had to work hard for this award.  Living in town as I did meant getting on my Raleigh bike and cycling many miles up Tikorangi Road to the farms of one of school friends, Ian Aitken.  Ian's parent had a dairy farm with Jersey cows and many a happy weekend I spent there, riding horses and sampling a farm lifestyle that was quite removed from my own in town.

Not all activities there were as happy. Slicing open the top of my foot with a super sharp silage spade remain vividly etched in my mind and I still have the scars to prove it.  Numerous puncture marks from making huts in the boxthorn hedges that surrounded most farms in those times also remain.

On the plus side there was the fresh cream from the separator in the milking shed, collecting birds eggs of differing hues and and a sense of freedom roaming the fields as we did.

But preparing for our local school's Calf Day was a serious business and meant training your selected calf to follow you around at the end of a rope halter, grooming and covering its hide with a canvas throw and generally maintaining it in tip top physical condition for the day of the show.

Not everyone showed calves.  Some had pet sheep that received a similar preparatory treatment but which were prone to run amok on the day, all of which added to the frivolity.  Other 'townies' chose their own pets and these ranged from cats & budgies to hens.

While we did not know it at the time, these preparations were the basics of animal husbandry and as children we learn a lot from caring for an animal.

So it is not surprising to learn that in more modern times, keeping a pet is still a preferred option for many races.  The Japanese have taken pet care to a whole new dimension; preferring to have a furry or feathered friend instead of having children.  I can only image the outcome if this trend had taken on in New Zealand; imagine having a country ruled by sheep!

Then again... perhaps we already are?
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