Busy time for family farming together

Clinton farmer and calf rearer Laura Allan just had to get on with shifting breaks and feeding...
Clinton farmer and calf rearer Laura Allan just had to get on with shifting breaks and feeding calves last week, albeit with three young children in tow.
Last week, as the nation took a deep breath and ventured down the well-trodden path of lockdown 2.0, newborn animals were none the wiser and the work still needed to be done.

Like many around Southland and Otago, Clinton-based calf-rearer Laura Allan is right in the thick of calf feeding and with 2-year-old Otis, 6-year-old Freddy and 8-year-old Juno at foot, she concedes homeschooling is a little “looser” this time around.

Mrs Allan and her husband James rear 50 to 60 beef calves each season and graze 150 rising 2yr-old dairy cows on their 80ha farm. Mr Allan is also a topdressing pilot and at this time of year they are like “ships in the night”, as he leaves early and gets home late.

“James usually gets up early and shifts a break fence in the dark before he leaves, to ease the pressure a bit,” she said.

‘‘I feel like I’ve got it pretty good. I know a lot of ladies who are doing what I am doing but on a much bigger scale and with kids around them. I take my hat off to them.’’

The day starts about 8am for Mrs Allan and the three children at the calf shed, getting the first feed for the day into the calves. There’s a break fence to shift for the bulls and then back to the shed for the afternoon calf feed.

The weather last week was warm and balmy, which made the workload that much easier.

“It can be really tough on hard frosty mornings and navigating the glove situation with a toddler, and just all the life admin that comes with getting cold and muddy.”

Mrs Allan was not too bothered about the home-schooling.

“We do what we can manage, but the school is really understanding that we are just busy outside and getting through the workload. I figured they are learning something, albeit a little more practical!

“The older two are easy, it’s the younger one that makes it tricky. He has a tendency to run off, so there’s always that health and safety aspect in the back of your mind when you’re busy doing things.”

Before Alert Level 4 lockdown, Otis was attending kindergarten three days a week “which is when I would get all those muddly farm jobs done; when I need to concentrate a bit more. With no kindy it is a bit harder”.

She gets by popping Otis in the stock trailer with his toys.

“His big sister and brother are also very good with him and extremely patient. The old baby backpack has also made a bit of a comeback, too. Everyone is fed, we all get home in one piece and that is the main priority.’’

Now that New Zealand, south of Auckland, is in Alert Level 3, Mrs Allan said she would opt to keep her children at home, ‘‘but the temptation is strong for the two year old to go back to kindy!’’.

- By Alice Scott

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