If you asked 100 traveler’s what they were after in this robust life of constant movement and unfamiliarity, 90% of them would cite cultural experiences as a top contender. A generic answer sought after by those who desire a life of many hello’s and equal amounts of goodbye’s. Sacrificing one’s set of perceived ideals to hopefully gain useful insight into a foreign culture and their customs. Online research is pivotal for travel planning but in reality getting your boots on the ground, while utilizing your local resources will open up a world for more vast than any computer screen or travel guide could possibly provide.
Blessed am I with the opportunity to once again, after over 14 years, share a roof with my sister Rachel. For the first 16 years of my existence I spent time fighting, nagging, harassing, getting dressed up, into trouble, loving, protecting, and learning from my two older sisters. While some might cringe at the idea of living with a sibling once again, for me it has been an experience filled with old memories transporting me back to the days of my youth. Along the way I have met people not archived on any travel blog or guidebook but rather the true people who call New Zealand home.
Open to any new experiences, I found myself looking forward to November 22nd with the word “Lamb Tailing,” covering the white space on the calendar. Not entirely sure what I had agreed to as the neighboring farmer graciously accepted my eager eyes and hardy hands in this annual event surely to draw some blood.
Determined to fit in as a true Kiwi farmer I accepted Rachel’s gift of black, upper thigh length, shorter than a standard pair of boxers, known as “Stubbies.” Presenting my pale white legs to the world, I zipped off to the farm. It did not take long for me to fully realize what “Lamb Tailing” consisted of, as my shins and thighs quickly became covered in red droplets of iron platelets. Lamb’s blood. After separating the lambs from their mothers for only a brief 10-30 minutes they are reunited with mom, scared, bloody, and minus an appendix. Have you ever seen a sheep with a tail? Before this experience I did not realize lambs had a tail at one point. Ignorant to the process of farming, I relished in this learning experience. You might ask why the dismemberment of a tail was necessary to the life of the lamb or how this is humane? If the tail remains, the fly’s rejoice as the feces will collect in the wool near the anus, creating an optimal breeding ground for maggots and disease to enter the body.
A team of at least 5 is pivotal to effectively tail lambs. After mustering (aka herding) the sheep and lambs they are run through a chute, separating the lambs into one corral, while allowing the mothers to wait in the paddock (aka pasture). One bloke loads lambs, on their back, into a cradle which secures them. Another clips the ear to indicate ownership and sex. Right for a female and left for the male. I reckon it is easy to remember since the female is always right? Right? The third man secures a tight rubber band around the scrotum, ceasing blood flow to the testis. The final two secure the lamb as a propane powered hot iron slices through the tail, simultaneously singeing the blood vessels. The concluding step is liberally spraying an anti-fly solution to the anus of the lamb. This entire process takes about 10 seconds from lamb loading to tail dismemberment. I spent three days on the farm and assisted in the removal of approximately 2,000 white fluffy tails. A small task as another 4,000 tails were still required to complete the nearly 6,000 stock of lambs for the season. I decided it was best to leave the remaining tails for the professionals!