Touring an Outrewarch dairy farm

Since my mother is so rarely with us in the Ardennes, and since the weather remained unexpectedly dry all day despite all horror predictions, Jan and I hushed everybody back into their walking shoes to venture outside for  yet another walk in the afternoon. The morning walk had been nice and tiring but we figured we could make another tour. After all, the weather predictions for the next day didn't promise our luck would last.

Our neighbour had told us that the big dairy farm in the next village, which we had walked by so often, was very keen on touring visitors.  So dressed very warmly against the icy wind, we headed out to the farm. 

It felt a big awkward to enter the farm land and for a moment we hesitated all, turning around in front of the big stables.  Should we knock some door? Should we ring somewhere?  I had a mobile phone number but how weird would it be to phone and say "hey, we are a family standing idle in front of your barn, can we get a tour please?"

While I hesitated all of a sudden a door further opened and some people left. An older farmer approached us and hushed us inside the stable right away. He wanted to know where we came from and started touring and explaining right away as if it is totally normal that we were there. He heard our language and started guiding in German although sometimes he had to search for the right word and we tried to help by ...completing the phrases in French. But he waved the children to follow him and let them choose whether they wanted to see big or small animals first etc... This man clearly thrived from visitors. Our neighbour had been right, this man adored touring visitors.

The farm has several hundred milking cows so we got to see the big stable where the cows could walk around, self-serve with their badge to extra power food, scrub their backs at some massage pole etc... Further we saw the bulls that had very little space however and further more we visited calves of different age sets.  Kabouter had his toes licked by a calf.  The fact that the calves were immediately separated from their moms gave me very mixed feelings. The youngest calf was born this morning only.
The farmer referred a few times to the economic reality, the harshness, the expensive investments and I understand a farm must be operated with a viewpoint on the economic profitability.  Yet I have difficulty to belief that calves cannot spend a longer time with their moms? I'm probably fairly ignorant, but I know it's one of the big vegan discussion points.

After all the dairy cows, we were shown - like farms on the child books - to the chicken field where free roaming chickens were walking, geese and ducks and separately also several rabbit boxes.  Despite the chicken freedom, they all had picking wounds. 
Last but not least we went to see the horse stables, where we recognised the horses that we had already photographed multiple times in the field during summer.

When we thought we had seen everything and the tour would end, we were shown into the equipment stable full of impressive machinery . Before we knew it our unstoppable guide had put the children on an old tractor for a ride on the premises.
We also got the explanation dung cart that did had multiple ducts that injected the dung immediately into the earth instead of spraying it around in the air...therefore reducing spillage and odour pollution.  A multi-million investment. 

Before we went home, our unstoppable guide wrote down our telephone number since there were 2 dairy cows at the point of giving birth.  Sure enough when we were happy and relieved to be finally home again after our 2nd long walk in the icy wind...the phone rang.  And since I missed picking it up right away, the neighbour had already received a phone call to warn us that we could go to see a birth if we wanted.  Did I tell you this old farmer is unstoppable once he starts guiding. He takes so much pride in what he does and he wants to show the reality of farm life , especially since there is so much negative/wrong information in the media.

I hesitated for a moment since I was sooooo much looking forward to sitting down and having dinner and a relax evening. We had walked already 15 km that day.   But ... in just 15 minutes a calf would get born and we had the opportunity to witness it close. So in the end my mom and I hopped back in the car (no way we'd walk again!!) with some empty containers to fill up with fresh dairy milk as well and we drove back. 

Indeed, one cow had clear signs of a started birth process and she was walking nervously back and forth, layed down, stood up again...but seriously nothing happened.  We got another tour of the dairy cows that were getting milked at the very moment, we got to fill up our milk containers, etc... but the calf wasn't getting born.  Nature takes the time it needs.  But so did our stomacs and we were freezing cold.  The vet that was keeping an eye on everything allowed me to feel inside which was a unique experience but in the end we let the cow take its time and returned home to have dinner with the boy that had already started.  The farmer promised me that he'd have many more cows that would birth in the coming weeks and that he'd keep my number.  So I'm pretty sure, I'll get more phone calls and one day I'll see a calf getting born.  You'll probably read all about it on that day ;)


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