Birth. More birth. More and more and more births. We had 14 piglets over the space of a couple of days. Our youngest and oldest sows decided to farrow (give birth) at pretty much the same time. The youngest moved from her warm, insulated shelter with plenty of straw, to the far corner of her paddock, where she built a nest out of dry grass she found herself. Out into the elements, with her back just millimetres from an electric fence. Thankfully, she had an untroubled labour, though it did take her a week to move her brood back to her house.
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10 Apr 2013 - 10:24 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

On the opposite hill, bigger animals were birthing. Due on or after one Friday, all six of our calves were born early or on the date. Mallee, the bull who came on loan from a mate, has left his reputation untarnished. The first calf surprised me, a tiny slip of a black Lowline Angus, trotting next to his mum when I wasn’t expecting it. Then each day another appeared, including Priscilla’s new bub, a Jersey/Angus cross. An incredible deep, almost fawn coloured heifer (young girl), with the finer bone structure of her mum.

It means we can milk again. Luckily the bails were built: A wooden structure that holds Priscilla’s head so she can’t walk backwards while she’s scoffing her chaff. We also put sides on this time, so she can’t lean over, or wiggle sideways and try to crush me as I crouch and milk. So, for the first time in over a year, we’re back to harvesting our own miracle white liquid; high-quality protein made by a Jersey cow in a space of a few hours out of nothing more than grass and water. A process is something no man-made machine can compare to. This milk has a golden hue, because Jerseys are great converters of beta carotene. It has a lug of cream on top that is at least 1/4 of the bottle, sometimes up to 1/3. It has a different taste to bought milk, to milk from other cows, from other farms. It is an immediate, true expression of the animal, the season, and the land on which it grazes. And the milk I get to drink is raw milk, a highly contentious product that seems to get more hysterical and frightening responses from government, and more miracle cures attributed to it from those who seek it out, than it probably deserves.

Raw milk has its dangers. It’s extraordinarily nutritious, and has some bugs in it, so it’s not sterile. But it’s the same with oysters. Or fish. Or meat. All are highly nutritious, high-quality proteins, with the potential to do harm. But milk is singled out as something a restaurant can’t buy in its raw state to cook or preserve as they would meat or fish. Some of this hysteria is historic, some based on, apparently, Australians’ zero approach to risk (which, by the way, doesn’t exist; there is always risk), and some based on science.

I’m not advocating for commercially available raw milk. I’m not an expert on these things. All I can tell you is the feverish response from authorities seems on par with their attitude to illegal and harmful drugs. I want my food as nutritious as possible. I’m not afraid of bacteria (about 1.5kg of the average human body weight is bacteria, according to the New York Times, and we’d die without many of them). I want my fresh food fresh, my cured and preserved food properly preserved, and I have no desire to get sick.

And now, thanks to a remarkable animal that can convert inedible grass into a rich, flavoursome, highly nutritious liquid, I have the extraordinary luxury of drinking milk straight from my own cow. All I have to do is crouch down, avoid her very kicky hind legs, and try and milk her.