Long hours at a busy time of year

Dairy farmers Rebecca and Vincent Koopmans love farm life and are continually looking for ways to...
Dairy farmers Rebecca and Vincent Koopmans love farm life and are continually looking for ways to improve farm operations. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Husband and wife Vincent and Rebecca Koopmans, like their farming peers, have been putting in some long hours during Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

Mr Koopmans is a dairy farmer, near Methven, and Mrs Koopmans a primary school teacher reaching out to pupils about ongoing learning under Covid restrictions.

‘‘Although it is business as usual during lockdown and we are very proud to be an essential service, it’s not life as normal and lockdown does still add pressure on farmers,’’ Mr Koopmans said.

‘‘We are lucky to be in a position to continue working, and providing work for our team as well, but like everyone else we are hoping this [Covid] outbreak is contained soon.’’

The couple are on a 600 hectare farm between Methven and the Rakaia Gorge.

It is a dairy and velvetting operation with 800 cows and 400 stags.

The farming business, originally run by Mr Koopmans’ parents, is now a partnership between him and his sister Yvonne. They have four full-time employees.

Mrs Koopmans is a teacher at Ashburton Borough School.

Mr Koopmans (28) has been full time on farm for the past nine years.

He loves the variety of farming and being able to have a physical, outdoors job.

Even though the weeks bring a similar set of jobs, every day is different, which is something he enjoys.

‘‘There is always something new to learn, and something slightly different to figure out. Not only is it a physically active job, but it keeps your brain active, too.’’

‘‘We are always concerned about minimising the negative environmental impacts of our business, and catering to the changing desires of consumers as they become more aware and concerned with environmental issues.

‘‘We believe that here in New Zealand we have one of the most sustainable food production models in farming, but we are continually looking for ways to improve on this ... such as reducing our synthetic fertiliser usage, putting in multi species pastures (which help to trap carbon), and focusing on implementing regenerative practices.’’

While Mr Koopmans grew up on the farm, Mr Koopmans spent her formative years growing up on a sheep and beef farm in Southland.

Her family moved north to Springston when she started high school.

They met through mutual friends when she was 19 and Mr Koopmans was full time on the farm then.

‘‘A couple of years later, I moved down to join him and I’ve been here since. I was more than happy to move back on to a farm and be involved in farming again,’’ Mrs Koopmans said.

She helps out on the farm when she is needed.

Lockdown has not changed much for the couple on farm, other than Mrs Koopmans being at home.

‘‘It does make things a bit trickier with organising things like farm supplies, as all deliveries and drop-offs must be contactless. Luckily, all the farm supply businesses are essential so we can still get what we need to run the business.

‘‘Lockdown also makes life a bit trickier for our staff, as of course they have no options to get off-farm on their days off.’’

‘‘As online learning gets up and running I get pretty busy too,’’ she said.

The cows are in the thick of calving so Mr Koopmans’ days revolve around feeding calves and making sure everything is running smoothly on farm. He is also the maintenance man, and there’s usually something that needs fixing.

However, looking after calves and the deer had taken up a bit of time of late.

It is a busy operation as everyone works to get the milking herd up and running, and break-feed the last of the winter crops.

‘‘It is a very busy time of year, as I’m sure anyone familiar with the industry understands.

‘‘Next week will bring more of the same. We are due to finish calving around the end of September. It’s been a very wet season this winter, which is making calving pretty tricky.’’

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