Weaning is one of the busiest and noisiest times on the farm. All the mobs of ewes and lambs are mustered in to the yards, lambs are drafted off ,weighed and drenched then taken back to a paddock without their Mums but with the best grass we have to offer. Both lambs and ewes hang around along the fence and the bleating is loud and sad from both camps for a few days . Slowly they do settle and weaned lambs start growing up and tight udders on the ewes shrink down .
Selling lambs is our major income so it is good to see them healthy and gaining weight. Disappointing prices for lamb at present though. We receive a schedule from the meat company every Friday night which has steadily dropped this year to disappointing low prices. With 4100 lambs to sell this season every 10 cents per kilogram drop in the meat schedule means $7,500 off our income. Frustrating to have such a good product earn such poor prices but when trading in global markets economies and sheep numbers in other countries impact heavily on our farm gate return. . Wouldn't it be great to sell lambs locally where no dollar fluctuations and overseas markets affect us and consumers know they are buying, eating and enjoying great Kaihoka produce? We continue to hope prices improve soon and with the lowest number of lambs born last spring in NZ for 60 years supply/demand must kick in sometime .The media has focussed on declining dairy incomes but not many of them will be converting to sheep.
Always tough decisions to make at this time of the year whether to sell lambs or hold on to them to get heavier weights and better prices. It is easy to be wise at the end of season about what we should have done but once lambs are off the farm we can't change our minds . The new year started with wonderful rain so our district is better off than some and we are grateful that gives us options.
Over the summer we had people staying in the holiday houses on the farm and it is nice to share Kaihoka with other families. Sometimes when I milk my house cows I have 10 helpers walk out to bring "Darling" and "Tootles" in from the paddock and watch the process with the single milking machine in the cow shed . What is a daily routine for me is a new and interesting experience for them .They like taking fresh milk back to their house to enjoy drinking an original warm "fluffy". It is a good opportunity to discuss facts about bulls and cows , put fingers up feeling the suction in the cup before it goes on the cow's teat, watch the cow regurgitating and chewing her cud and learning that ruminants have 4 stomachs. Many families are from Christchurch so it is interesting to talk about their earthquake experiences ,what it is like to live there and watch the rebuild . Some families are first timers here others on return trips and one group has been coming for 42 years with generations growing up with summer Kaihoka friendships and experiences like listening to weaning lambs bleating in the warm night air.
Speaking about weaning .......this term is significant for our family as Mary has chosen to move on from schooling at home to attend Collingwood Area School for year 11. Our family has 14 years with Correspondence School since Johnie started with the Early Childhood programme at 3 years old .It has worked well for us with Johnie achieving NCEA level 1, 2 and 3 in his year 11 and Mary gaining valuable grounding and success .Now time for a change and I will no longer be supervising lessons , going to camps at interesting places like Arapawa Island and St Arnaud and being secretary for TCS Parents Association. This is a BIG step in my life and I will try to refrain from hanging along the fence while "weaning."
Bet I'm not the only rural person who gets asked; "What do you do out there in the country?" Well I don't work 8 to 5, go to gym, squash or choir practice. It's more about everyday juggling involvement with farm, family, church, bookwork, the phone and helping out in the community.
So Hello from Kaihoka on the West Coast of Golden Bay to this fortnightly column from a sheep and beef farm . I don't write blogs or Facebook pages but I hope a regular communication in our local newspaper from a regular rural woman like me will interest people who may not know what we do with our days, how we think and operate .
So first I am proud to introduce Kaihoka ,the farm and the people here.
Kaihoka is situated on the top west coast of the South Island on the north head of the Westhaven Inlet. The farm is 990 mainly hilly hectares running from the Tasman Sea on the west across to the inlet .It is a beautiful place with the tide constantly moving over the mudflats and west coast surf pounding most days .Our neighbours are about 4 kms away on farms to north and south . Some think it is isolated but we are only 30 minutes drive from Collingwood.
On the farm we run 3400 ewes and this spring docked 142% so we are growing 4800 lambs at present. There are 350 cattle plus calves born in the spring to the 180 Angus cows... not counting my 6 house cows which are here to produce milk for us and feed lambs calves and pigs.Other livestock include chooks,rooster, a rabbit, a cat,numerous ducks and a goose on the pond, 7 pigs, 14 working dogs and a schnauzer....no horses as transport is on quads and 2 wheel motorbikes .
I moved to the farm when I married the farmer 19 years ago. Life for me started on a sheep farm north of Gisborne, followed by 5 years boarding school , a vet degree at Massey and then my first job doing a locum at Golden Bay Vet Club. Kaihoka is my husband Jock's family farm .His Dad came here in 1936 as a "cowboy". He thought that would involve horses, cattle and lariats but it actually meant milking house cows. He stayed anyway and bought the farm with his father in 1947. Our son Johnie, 17 years old, is also keen on farmlife . When he started to walk he discovered a pool table covered with green cloth , pulled up a chair , climbed up and set up his first farming enterprise with block fences and plastic animals. He now works on Kaihoka, is learning to shear and picks up casual work . Daughter , Mary at 15 enjoys the place, the pets and lifestyle but doesn't see her future here. She helps in the woolshed and when lambs aren't moving well she can can be heard raving in time to stick waving... " I never want to be a sheep farmer !!"
We have a great little community here as well as our family . Granddad lives in a cottage on the farm, holiday people come and go and another family rent a house with their 3 children so the 5 Kaihoka Kids spend time together working, playing , swimming , riding bikes and hanging out. ...what a life! My Mum lives close by after her big move south from Gisborne 14 year ago and visits for a weekly garden tidy.
We did feature on Country Calendar 4 years ago which was a fun and scary experience. We were apprehensive about being so public and I feel nervous now launching into this column. Twenty minutes on TV went Ok and I am willing to open myself again and add another commitment to the list of "what I do with my spare time ! "