Want to try something different? Not afraid to get your hands dirty?
Then why not head to Ravels in northern Belgium and...
As soon as you arrive, you get a pair of overalls and rubber boots. Before getting personal with the cows, the farmers guide you around the dairy farm. There are three stables. One is reserved for the cows that are about to calve and the bulls, and a smaller one is reserved for the calves. The biggest stable is for the cows that are producing milk.
Technology has made its entrance here.
Milking is done by the so-called milk robot. It milks the cows twice a day and a computer keeps track of how much milk each cow produces. Every animal has a collar with a number and an electronic device at their ankle, which is linked to the same computer. When a cow produces less milk than normal, an alarm goes off and the farmers will get a text message on their mobile phone. They can then immediately intervene and see what's wrong with the cow. She could be ill or maybe she left the milk robot too soon.
After the tour, it's finally time to hug some cows.
In general, these animals are more afraid of you than you are of them. It's important to approach them from the front, to be calm and relaxed ... and to look at their ears. If they are pointed backwards, it means the cow is relaxed and will allow you to do some hugging.
So, how do you proceed? When you approach a cow, you are actually invading her space. Move slowly and calmly and caress them, especially behind their ears and on their neck, their favorite places. Then, it's finally time to lie on her belly. Feel how she breathes...
Cows feel soft and warm!
Keep on petting her and then simply wait for that magic moment when she turns towards you and presses her head up against you.
In general, my partner and I were struck by how sweet, loving and intelligent cows are. Some of them are even very playful. There was one cow for example who could not stay away from me and kept licking my hair and my face! And some others are notorious pickpockets! One thing that we really appreciated was how fond the farmers were of their animals and how they didn't treat them like a number.
Nothing will go wrong if you simply follow the rules mentioned above.
Moreover, the farmers stay close to you to assure that nothing goes wrong. And, you're given more than enough time to enjoy quality time with the cows.
Finally, before you go home, you can taste some of the produce from the dairy farm.
You can book a session of cow hugging on the website of the dairy farm, www.koeknuffel.be. Click on "reserveren" and complete the form.
You won't regret it!