Observed nationally on June 1st each year, Gypsy Day is a fairly unique part of Kiwi farming culture. It’s when thousands of cattle and hundreds of households are on the move, as farms change hands and sharemilkers take up new contracts before the start of the new dairy season. Cows can be moved in the days either side of Gypsy Day, which is just as well, as this year it falls on the Monday of the long Queens Birthday holiday weekend.
Some cows can be moved in stock trucks thousands of kilometres and/or between the North & South Islands or farmers can choose to drove their herd to the new farm if the distances aren’t too great.
I stepped outside the van this morning to take some photos of the birds I had been feeding seed to when off in the distance I heard the sound of dogs barking and voices calling out, and there across the canal was the very unusual sight of a herd of cows crossing the bridge.
For a pretty peaceful looking scene there's a lot of industry going on in the photo below- power generation, salmon farming and dairy farming. And a little bit of the retirement industry too.
State Highway 8 is a national highway, a busy tourist route through the centre of the South Island and usually a busy road even at 9am on a cold frosty morning but due to the snow fall a couple of days ago, the passes north and south of here still have a smattering of snow and ice covering them and traffic had been warned to leave travel until later in the morning. This would have helped with moving this herd.
There were a number of drovers and vehicles ahead of the herd to warn approaching traffic and to direct the cows away from side roads, then two quad bikes with farm dogs on board directly behind the cows pushing them along with more vehicles bringing up the rear warning traffic from behind.
This must be a farm dogs most favourite day of the year. The look of anticipation on their faces as they strained forward hoping to be directed off the bike soon.
As they disappeared off the bridge and behind the hill I raced up the side and was able to grab some more shots of the herd as they prepared to cross the next bridge over the Ruataniwha Lake Spillway.
Don’t be fooled by the brilliant blue sky day we have either- it’s bitterly cold!
Under the cover of Mt Cook- you can see NZ’s tallest mountain, Aoraki poking its head out from the hills on the left.
I like the one clever cow who decided to use the pedestrian walkway across the bridge.
And look at that, they even had a welcome sign up for them- 'McKenzie Country Welcomes You'
I wonder where they were headed, it’s about 60kms from Twizel to the next settlement of Lake Tekapo, although I doubt they would have gone further than Lake Pukaki about 25kms up the road as it’s mainly conservation land after that.
Life on the road still brings many surprises.