Easier without trampers, climbers, walkers, tourists

Family time ... Covid-19 lockdown has meant being able to spend more time on the farm with his...
Family time ... Covid-19 lockdown has meant being able to spend more time on the farm with his family (from left) Randall, Johnny (7), Josh (6) and Allison Aspinall, of Mt Aspiring Station. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Running a high country farm next to a national park has been easier during the Covid-19 lockdown because there are no climbers, trampers, walkers and tourists on the road or property.

Fourth generation farmer Randall Aspinall and his wife, Allison, manage the 2300 ha beef and sheep property, 50km from Wanaka, at the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park.

It is estimated more than 100,000 people travel through the property each year which can present challenges, the most common of which is shifting stock.

‘‘Normally we would try to do it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and often it would be a two-person job to stop traffic at some of the choke points, whereas with no traffic you can just go and do it wherever you want to,’’ Mr Aspinall said.

Before the Covid-19 lockdown their two young sons Johnny (7) and Josh (6) went to school in Wanaka and Mr Aspinall attended meetings four days a week in town and coached children’s sports teams.

‘‘The difference for me is that I am normally involved in a bit of ‘‘off farm’’ stuff, community groups, water quality groups and the Otago catchment groups, so I have been more productive around the farm and spent more time with the kids.’’

The lockdown had required him to repair fences, shear sheep and drive the tractor which would normally have been done by contractors and part-time employees.

Difficulty getting stock to the freezing works was one big issue that had been caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

‘‘It is the time of year when there is normally quite a lot of stock that needs processing, so that is probably at the forefront of most farmers’ minds.’’

Mt Aspiring Station was to have an on-farm calf sale on April 21 but it was cancelled due to the lockdown.

‘‘Hopefully we have buyers for about half the calves but the other half are going to be reasonably hard to place, as there was a drought in Canterbury early on and Southland has had a tricky season so there is not heaps of feed around and the works is slowing it down.’’

Despite the stock issue, Mr Aspinall believed most beef and sheep farmers realised how ‘‘lucky’’ they were compared to a lot of other sectors.

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