Birth during lockdown a surreal experience


 Cameron Henderson welcomes his daughter Annie. Photo: Supplied
Cameron Henderson welcomes his daughter Annie. Photo: Supplied

As Canterbury families went into lockdown last week, Cameron Henderson was contemplating becoming a father for the first time.

The Federated Farmers North Canterbury president's fiancée Sarah McNeill gave birth to a baby girl, Annie, on March 25 by caesarian section, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 lockdown and the drought impacting on the northern part of the region.

Mr Henderson said the lockdown made it all a surreal experience.

“We've had no grandparent visits or any visitors, just a lot of skyping and photos online. It's something different people have to contend with.”

He expected the new family would be released home for the weekend and the lockdown meant it would just be the three of them at home for at least the next four weeks, while Mr Henderson continued managing his Oxford dairy farm and overseeing the local Federated Farmers response to the crises.

“Hopefully, it won't cause too many problems. Farming is an essential industry, so the farmwork has to continue, but I have a good team.

“And I will have a lot more time at home with all the community stuff not happening. It opens up the calendar.

“To be honest, it could be quite nice, not having visitors and not having to worry about keeping the house tidy and there will be plenty of bonding time.”

Mr Henderson said having the two crises, Covid-19 lockdown and the drought, at the same time presented some challenges for farming leaders to manage.

“The drought is over such a wide spread area. We had a conference call with the various Feds presidents discussing how to get feed from South Canterbury to the North Island.

“Trying to ensure we still had transport available and working out the cost is a challenge at the moment. It's not a good time to be dealing with two crises at the same time.”

The drought was mainly impacting the northern part of the Hurunui district, Marlborough and throughout the North Island, with farmers in the Waimakariri district and further south largely operating as “business as usual.”
But the Covid-19 lockdown and compliance procedures were causing some challenges.

Compliance requirements could mean the meat processors were unable to operate at full capacity, leaving drought-stricken farmers, who needed to dispose of stock, with few options and creating concerns around animal welfare.

There were also questions around what saleyards could operate, so “virtual saleyards” were being considered, Mr Henderson said.

“The message has gone out to the farming community that the rules apply to us as well and we certainly don't want to be responsible for preventing containment.

“But we are pretty lucky that we can continue trading. It's one of the upsides of farming in isolation.”

Mr Henderson said farmers have welcomed the Government's drought relief package and the news that visas for migrant workers would be extended to September.

He said he was unaware of any on-farm labour shortages in North Canterbury in the short-term, but there may be issues finding workers when the new season starts.


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