When Corey Stephens began working on Jill and Eric Ross' Kiritaki dairy farm 20 years ago, he became instant mates with a jersey calf he named Baby Girl.

"She was born on August 12, the 15th calf born that year and she's been really close to me all these years," Stephens said.

"She used to jump on my back, but then I had to watch her when she got a bit bigger."
Corey has spent half his life as a lower order sharemilker on the property and admits he's pretty sentimental about the calf he called Baby Girl.

"She was always the first cow up the race and she's the oldest on the farm and I reckon she's one of the oldest in the district," he said.

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"She always had a cuddle every milking and she's been an amazing cow, very fertile, producing four sets of twins and in human years, she's right up there. I'm surprised she's lasted this long. She's an incredible cow."

The Ross dairy farm has been acknowledged as being in the top 1 per cent in breeding in New Zealand and Corey said that could have something to do with Baby Girl's longevity.

"The farm is in the top 3 per cent for production too, and Livestock Improvement have been wanting me to cull her, but there's no way I'd put her on the truck," he said.

In fact, Corey said it's been a struggle every year putting cows on the truck [to the freezing works].

"I just about have to go home and have a couple of whiskeys afterwards," he said.
Jill said she and husband Eric would never have the heart to put Baby Girl on the truck either, despite her old age and failing eyesight.

"She's so special," Jill said. "You know, a farm might have a pet cow for a couple of years, but not 20."

The Kiritaki farm has been in the family for 106 years and no stock, bulls, calves or cows have been brought on to the farm.

"It's about sticking to our own genetics," Jill said. "Our cows are always treated well and we have no alkathene on the place."

Sadly, the day has almost come for Corey to move on from Kiritaki to a new farm manager's job on a 750-cow farm at Poipoi in the Waikato, with a rotary shed, a big move up from the 300 cows he milks at Kiritaki. He moves on Gypsy Day, June 1.

"It's so sad to be going as Jill and Eric have been like family to me and I've never had any reason to shift. I'm not one for change," he said.

"I will be a mess the day I leave."

Corey's brother, Dale, a farm assistant on the property for 12 years, is also moving on, but staying locally.

As for Baby Girl, she's staying in her retirement paddock, happily chewing her cud, but everyone is aware her day will come. But there will be no journey on a truck to the knacker's yard — she will be buried on the farm.