Whatever it is called, Gypsy Day will go ahead this year and cows will be mooved – but under strict COVID-19 controls

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor eschewed the words “Gypsy Day”, in a press statement yesterday that addressed dairy farmers’ concerns about what would happen on June 1.  He preferred “Moving Day” and said Moving Day will go ahead as planned this year, but with strict controls to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Reporting this news, Farmers Weekly explained that Moving Day is also known as Gypsy Day and occurs on June 1 each year when many dairy farming families, sharemilkers, contract milkers and employees move to new farms to start new jobs and milking contracts.

Yet another expression was incorporated in a Federated Farmers press statement headline on April 9:  GYPSY / MOOVING DAY.

In the statement, the feds said they were aware of the level of concern among dairy farmers over how the annual 31 May/1 June “Gypsy Day” or “Moving day” shift would work under the COVID-19 controls.

“This is a stressful enough time in a normal year and many people are understandably concerned about how the COVID-19 restrictions will impact their ability to move their family, herd and machinery.”

This wasn’t the first use of “mooving”.

The Otago Daily Times on May 29 2017 said June 1

” … is called ”Mooving Day” by industry organisation DairyNZ, and is sometimes referred to as Gypsy Day.”

Sometimes?

Gypsy Day was in common use when  the Otago Regional Council used the expression in a media release in 2017

Next thing we knew, council officials were saying because of the ”undertones”, the council would not use those words in future.

According to Stuff

A council won’t use the term “Gypsy Day” again, after it was deemed too offensive.

And:

On Wednesday, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) issued a statement under the heading “Gypsy Day preparations bring reminder to reduce effluent spillage”.

That prompted a rebuke from Dunedin City councillor, Aaron Hawkins, who said “I think it’s remarkable that in 2017 something called ‘Gypsy Day’ could still exist”.

“The word ‘gypsy’ is commonly used as a slur against Roma people, but even putting that aside, drawing a comparison between herds of cattle and any ethnic grouping I would have thought was pretty offensive.

“Even if it is entrenched in common usage, I’d like to think that a body like the ORC would show some leadership by using more inclusive language.”

Stuff asked regional council chief executive Peter Bodeker for comment and was assured:

“The term ‘Gypsy Day’ might be still in common use within the farming community as a short-hand term for the mass movement of stock, but it has undertones that aren’t in tune with New Zealand society today”.

“ORC won’t be using the term in the future.”

DairyNZ’s senior communications and engagement manager, Lee Cowan, conjectured to Stuff:

“The origin of the term probably goes back to the days when the majority of farmers and sharemilkers walked their cows to the new farm rather than trucking them as they do now.

“This meant there were a lot of farmers and cows walking along the road on changeover day which got colloquially known as Gypsy Day,” Cowan said.

“In terms of the use of the term Gypsy Day; some farmers still use the term informally as this is the term they would have grown up with, but positively we are seeing greater uptake of the term ‘Mooving Day’.”

It seems Cowan was wrong.  A fortnight or so later, the New Zealand Herald flushed out former Northland rural report broadcaster Goldie Wardell, who recalled coining the phrase Gypsy Day back in the 1980s, 

One day he was driving along a metal road in Northland when he saw a farmer walking in front of a herd, heading toward a farm gate on the side of the road.

“As soon as I saw the farmer I slowed right down because I knew there’d be a herd of cows coming along the road and sure enough, there they were, ambling along. There were a couple of children quietly walking alongside the cows, just pushing them along the road with no fuss.

“Next, behind them all came mum, driving the car towing a trailer behind it, full of the family’s belongings. The car was overflowing, the trailer was packed high with furniture and boxes and buckets, everything you could imagine teetering on top and hanging over the sides.

“I thought of Gypsies, packing up their home and moving to another farm.

“It was a sight I’ll never forget, but also one you used to see many times.”

Next day on National Radio, Wardell described the scene and said Moving Day or Sharemilkers’ Day could just as well be called Gypsy Day. It stuck, and it spread.

A Herald poll  found most readers didn’t think the name was offensive, with some saying things like “We have become a pack of sooks pandering to every fringe view”.

Another said “when a gypsy complains then we can talk”.

The Otago Regional Council reverted  to using the term Gypsy Day in 2018.

And the expression remains in common use.

A report in Newshub on April 1 said:

Uncertainty surrounds plans for the farming community’s annual Gypsy Day should the COVID-19 lockdown be extended. 

A similar report in Rural News  a few days later was headed “COVID-19: Trying to sort out Gypsy Day”.

But the announcement of the Government’s decision yesterday was headed Minister gives Moving Day the green light.

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