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Moo~: Nostalgia for the “Urban Cowherd”

Posted August. 26, 2004 22:05,   


The heat of a particularly scorching summer is finally bowing its head to the cool of a fast-approaching fall. The sky is noticeably higher now, and the breeze blows with a new chill in the mornings and evenings. As you cross autumn’s threshold, why not treat yourself to the unique experience of dairy farming—herding cows, milking, feeding newborn calves, and making dairy tofu—on a ranch spread wide beneath the cobalt skies of Dangjin-gun, Chungcheongnam-do?

Upon the Green Green Meadow—

The verdant hills reveal their faint undulating silhouette through the morning fog. Cows graze leisurely as they amble over the grassy rise. It’s a peaceful landscape worthy of a painting.

In Dangjin, you can experience this pastoral life firsthand. For the first time, the Korea Dairy Committee (KDC) is making a “Family Dairy Farm Experience” program available to the public, as a two-day course beginning every Saturday from September 4 through October 10 (Chuseok weekend excluded). The cost is fairly reasonable thanks to the KDC, which is subsidizing 30 percent of the expenses.

Participants can not only try their hands at dairy farming but also visit the Herb Village in Gagok-li, Songsan-myeon, Dangjin-gun to make herbal soap and herb pots. The program also includes a trip to Woemok Village, where you can see both the sunrise and the sunset. In contrast to the sunrises over the East Sea, with its wide and open horizons, the sunrise viewed in Woemok Village is pretty and charmingly cozy.

The cows on the ranch like to congregate, so they are often found massed together in one spot. If you lightly tap them several times on the backside, they begin to move slowly forward. Although cows weigh over 400kg, they’re easily scared and timidly apprehensive around approaching humans. But be wary of hitting them too hard or following too closely at their rear: you could earn yourself a kick from their strong hind legs.

Milking Requires Skill—

Grazing demands strenuous management and generally yields less milk than confined feeding, so not many grazing farms remain today. But grazing herds reportedly produce higher quality milk, because they experience lower stress levels.

Taesin Farm, which hosts the “Family Dairy Farm Experience,” sits on a 230,000-pyong spread. Due to the management-related difficulties of grazing, it doesn’t graze 100 percent of its herd, but you can still see 450 sturdy cows in various areas throughout the farm. You’ll find calling card-sized identification tags on their ears. Females have tags on both ears while males have only one: since milk-producing females are far more valuable, two tags ensure that the females are easily recognizable even if one of them accidentally falls off.

After roaming the grass with the herd, you can give milking a try. Twenty cows can fit simultaneously into a single milking room. Most are milked using machines, but three or four of them can be milked by hand. Milking occurs two or three times a day, to ensure the cows’ health. If they are not milked regularly, their udders become overly swollen and start to cause pain; infection can also set in. A single cow yields about 13kg of milk per session.

In order to start milking, the four teats (measuring about 5cm each in length) have to be wiped clean with a piece of sterilized cloth. When the teat is pulled down in a sweeping motion, white milk shoots out like the spray of a water pistol. Riveted by the novel sight, children linger beside the cows, watching in rapt attention. But, of course, overzealousness is strictly forbidden; if you grip the teat too hard in hopes of squeezing out more milk, the cow will tense up and give even less.

Making Dairy Tofu—

Feeding freshly squeezed milk to a young calf is also fun. A calf weighs about 45kg right after birth, and stands as tall as a full-grown Jindo Dog. It consumes roughly 4L of milk a day, and can be weaned when it’s 60 days old.

To feed a calf, you need to support its chin with one hand and place the milk bottle to its mouth. But don’t underestimate it just because it’s young: a calf can suck with surprising strength, and if you don’t keep a firm grip, you’re liable to lose hold of the bottle. Now and then, the calf opens its mouth and lets go of the bottle; this means that it’s out of breath, and you’ll need to take the bottle away for a short while. Playing this gentle tug of war with the calf, you’ll find yourself quickly becoming attached to your wide-eyed little friend.

You can make tofu on the spot using fresh milk. After the milk is brought to a rolling boil inside a pot, add salt water and vinegar to make it curdle. When the mixture becomes relatively firm, wrap it in cloth and place it in a four-sided frame, and the tofu is complete. Dairy tofu, which retains the sweet, savory flavor of milk, tastes like mild cheese and is loved by children.

When the experience is over, everyone gathers round for a milk-drinking competition and a milk trivia quiz. The winners are awarded prizes provided by the KDC. For inquiries, call the KDC at 02-6007-5546.

Written by Choi Mi-seon, Travel Planner


Photos by Shin Seok-gyo, freelance photographer