Backstop catches dairy farmer’s heart
ANYONE wondering if dairy farming is more than just a business should spend some time with Karrinjeet Singh-Mahil.
The Legendairy farmer from Crossley in south west Victoria has developed an enduring bond with the 330 cows that live on her farm.
Her love affair with the crossbred herd started 10 years ago when she met future husband Brian Schuler, who asked her to hurry-up the cows as they wandered in for milking on a cold, dark morning.
“He told me they would all just peel off and walk around me as I walked down the laneway, which they did, until I collided with one cow right at the end,” she said.
“She had no interest in anything but getting to know who this new person was, so I had to push her all the way to the shed. We became friends after that.”
Known as Backstop for her habit of being last cow into the yard and bringing up any stragglers, she is now 15-years-old and the much loved matriarch of the herd.
“She has her own little spot near the milking shed now because she has arthritis,” Karrinjeet says.
“In the morning I just have to call her name and she comes in the gate and waits until I’m ready and then I give her a little treat of some extra grain … just because she’s so wonderful.”
Talk to Karrinjeet and it becomes clear that Backstop isn’t the only cow in the herd on very good terms with her owners. There’s Magpie, Irene, Twiggy, Wild Thing and Shaq – just to name a few.
“They earn their names on this farm. Magpie can’t walk past something that is new - she has to stop and investigate it. So she is a lot like a magpie,” Karrinjeet said.
“Irene was named after Irene van Dyke, the former New Zealand netball captain. She is very tall and beautiful and a spectacular cow and she comes when we sing ‘Come on Irene’.”
While Karrinjeet and Brian clearly enjoy working with their cows, they couldn’t imagine any other way to run a successful dairy business.
“You have to look after the things that provide you with your living - whether that be the land or the animals – because if you don’t, it’s not going to work for you,” she said.
“We just love them. Our cows are what keep us doing this.”
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