Up with the Cows

Donna Nichols is the Dairy Manager at the CB Alexander Agriculture Campus of Tocal College, located just outside Maitland in the NSW Hunter Valley. The College is run by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and has 105 full time students. It covers 5,000 acres and is a commercially run property.

Donna is up at 3:30am every morning to milk the farm's 170 cows (no, not by hand!). Growing up on a diary farm across the Hunter River, Donna is used to early rising - but she goes to bed every night at 8:30pm! She says that, after all, "you wouldn't do it if you didn't enjoy it!"

The cows are milked at this hour so that they're out on the farm around breakfast-time and so that the milking doesn't have to be done in the heat of the day. The cows are milked a second time later in the afternoon.

Cows produce milk for about 300 days per year with an individual cow averaging about 25 litres of milk during the warmer months, and 20 litres during winter. The cows on the farm produce about 1.6 million litres of milk annually.

Quirky fact: Donna says that many people have no idea where the milk they drink comes from! Many are shocked and disgusted that milk originates in a cow's udder!