SWITCHING OFF from full-time farming! Lisa Groen

My mind has never been CLEARER! The biggest relief and weight off my shoulders. Last season was the nail in the coffin and a good time to bow out of full-time farming. I honestly did not have the mental capacity or energy to continue…… (that burnt-out feeling). Physically I still had it in me, but mentally I had to STOP. It’s 100% been the right decision for me and my parents.

It was challenging and exhausting to get to the finish line last season. That rain just would just not stop. Unfortunately, we finished short of our 120,000 kg MS target, but looking back I’m glad we stopped milking when we did on the 10th of May. We could’ve kept milking but didn’t want to open the second stack of silage and have to order another 12 t of meal to keep going for another 10 days. We wanted to keep the stack of silage for the incoming sharemilker and make sure pasture covers were excellent come 1st June.

End of an ERA. Last milking complete!

I asked dad in our last milking together…… Are you getting emotional? He said NO… I just feel like doing a star jump as soon as I turn off the milking machine! Ha ha. He was also counting down the days to go! Drying off when we did gave me the chance to move out of my house and into the parents’ house. Gave my house and garage a good clean etc so my house was ready for the sharemilkers to move in earlier rather than everything at once on the 1st of June. The last two weeks of May were spent water blasting the cowshed, painting the walls and dairy room. Getting rid of scrap metal and random rubbish out of the implement and calf sheds. We had ordered all of the rubberwear to be replaced. The digger was here for a week to clean some drains and cleaned all the races. Two loads of crusher dust were laid for the race going towards the cowshed. Wood chip for the calving pad was also delivered and spread out by the digger. The last load of hay came to make sure the haybarn was full. Just making sure EVERYTHING was set up for the sharemilker.

Digger work on farm and crusher dust on race entrance to cowshed.

I also ended up doing ten afternoon milkings at the end of May for a neighbour down the road who milks 800 odd cows through a 54-bale rotary with cup removers. It’s been a while since milking in a rotary, it took my body three milkings to get used to it but got up to speed and rhythm. I really enjoyed it and the owner enjoyed having me too and has offered to have me milk for this season. We are just sorting out a roster and pay per hour. This milking job will provide me with enough hours (six hours a day), so I don’t have to work elsewhere and I have enough income. Farmers in the area have asked me if I’m interested in calf rearing or other farm work. I said NO, milkings only. I don’t enjoy calf rearing and if I have to do other farm work on top of milking, I might as well have just stayed full-time farming on the family farm. So, the only thing I have to think about is: what time I must be there for the morning and afternoon milkings and the only paperwork I ever have to fill in is my time sheet! Simple and easy right?!

Hopefully, we won’t get told off but we used 210 units of N to the ha last season. (We picked up the last 4T on order before the 1st of June for the sharemilker to use in June). The pastures just looked yuck! Trying to maintain them to stay green and not a sick rusty looking yellow was hard. All the nutrients had leached out of the soil with all the rain. We have emptied the effluent pond twice this season already, (which was mostly rainwater) on sunny days with the travelling irrigator on the drier effluent paddocks. This created more work.  Mother Nature has thrown us a lot of obstacles in the last two seasons.

Transferring effluent from the storage pond to the sump. Irrigating on sunnier/dry days. Extra work shifting irrigator.

Rainfall totals for us:

March: 105 mm

April: 27 mm (what a relief that was)

May: 116 mm

June: 176 mm (thank goodness I was in the South Island for most of that)

July: to date 63 mm

I have ABSOLUTELY enjoyed having two months off from farming. My 18-day holiday to the South Island was 1,000% overdue and needed. I have friends from Telford Rural Polytechnic who I haven’t seen in 7-11 years. Plus, other friends who I caught up with and stayed with. Saw my old boss and his new farm too. The scenery is just AMAZING and it’s totally a different world down there. I hadn’t booked a return ferry ticket till towards the end as I didn’t want to rush my travels e.g., having to drive in bad conditions because I had to be in the next town/city at this date and time, or if I really enjoyed being at a place and wanted an extra day/night I could.

My old boss David McInnes from South Otago – we have regularly kept in touch over the years & he has been a great mentor to me. Gravel roads of South Otago where I used to farm.

Dart River jet boat tour, Glenorchy (aka Middle Earth). Other previous bosses Paul & Tracey Kenny from my short 5 month stint in Otorohanga.

My parents are currently in Holland having their well-deserved holiday. So, I’m happily enjoying house sitting and keeping an eye on things. I have told the sharemilker that I’m here to help if he’s stuck and needs an extra pair of hands with anything.

Living the dream in Holland! Had Frank Portegys call me the “LADY OF LEISURE” at the last SMASH event in June – well, definitely not the lady of leisure this day fixing a water leak with the sharemilker.

Still doing the odd day or night trip to catch up with other people and not having to look at the time and say… sorry, gotta go, the farm is calling or when its pouring with rain and got to take the cows off etc. I went to a Warrior’s rugby league game in Auckland with three friends recently. I’m going with a group of ten of my soccer friends to see one of the Football World Cup games in Hamilton soon. It’s so nice being able to do these sorts of things at this time of the year and not be in the middle of calving. FREEDOM!!!!! Who knows what possibilities are out there for me.

People have asked: “Oh is it weird seeing someone else running the farm?” NO. We leased the farm out for two seasons in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. To be honest, we are grateful to see someone else running the farm because my parents and I had gotten to that point of letting go! We are so HAPPY to have great sharemilkers who are keen, willing to keep learning and improving. Most of all COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION!!!!! Just like with anything in life, COMMUNICATION! We have a farm advisor to oversee things and keep us all on track. We don’t expect the sharemilkers to feed the amounts of meal that Dad and I did. But the potential is there to do so. At the end of the day…. as long as the sharemilkers make money, we make money! The only thing we have left to sell is our 2021 6100M John Deere tractor (1 lady driver) which has only done 1400ish hours. Get in touch if interested.

It has been a soggy start to the new season for most farmers across the country. Even parts of the South Island had water lying in paddocks. The last time it was this wet in July was in 2017. I hope that we all have a drier than normal calving and growth rates keep up with demand. Was pleasing to know that when our sharemilker did a pasture walk on the 2nd of June, we had over 2400 pasture cover. He is currently halfway through the silage stack and feeding hay to the springers.

Now that I have moved back in with the parents, I have noticed that we are enjoying things more as a family. We are not discussing the day-to-day running of the farm and things that need to be done. Dad and I aren’t as stressed or tired. People have asked Dad… “What are you going to do now?” he said NOTHING! Because doing NOTHING is also something! Ha ha. I’m sure he will still be the maintenance man on farm, help the sharemilker and be busy in his garden.

Take care of each other over calving. Don’t overdo it! Do what you can and don’t push yourself over the limit! Keep talking, have the time to chat to a neighbour or farming friends. When in town getting supplies, treat yourself to a warm meal and drink. I definitely think about my farming friends who are still fulltime farming.

Snapshot of the 2022-2023 season.

1 Comment

  • Awsome you guy’s deserve a break

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