Anne-Marie Wells waves her wand and EIDs appear magically on the screen.

At the end of last season we bought a wand to read EIDs. We had been thinking about it for a while and, because we would use it only a couple of times a year, wondered if it justified the cost. I suppose it depends how you measure cost, but in my view it paid for itself on the first use when we sent cows away to winter grazing.

Usually we make a note of all the cow numbers as they head onto the truck. At this point it’s not unusual to misread or miswrite the odd number, then those numbers are entered into the computer where there’s a second chance to do the same. This time the cows were scanned as they went onto the truck, and when I plugged the device into the computer, all I had to do was open the group and select to do a NAIT transfer – I didn’t even need to log on to the NAIT website.

The real gem for me was when it came to selling our Hereford calves. I used to have to note all the numbers, find the piece of paper with the numbers on, log into the NAIT website, find the numbers in my unregistered animals, register them, then move them. I have just done it through the wand. I scanned the EIDs, plugged in the wand, registered and transferred them, and the whole process took less than five minutes.

I think part of the reason I am so excited about this is because I have spent the last two months feeling fairly inadequate out on the farm, and it is nice to have something I feel good at. Because of my background I find the paperwork side of the farm easy and (dare I say it) enjoyable. I have good systems in place – if the numbers don’t add up I enjoy the challenge of working out why – and the work suits me because it is predictable and systematic. Plus, nothing is going to die if I get the GST wrong.

Out on the farm, particularly in spring, things aren’t as predictable. The day-to-day routine follows the same pattern, but the detail changes with any number of things such as the weather, the number of people available to do the job, or whether the cows/calves/children are co-operating that day. While I am keen to help, I am not able to attach implements to the tractor and I’m not the fastest at moving stock. Plus, if I hold a bag of CalproMag the wrong way, something might actually die.

That busy time of year often gets me thinking about the many different ways we ladies are involved in the farming lifestyle. There is a spectrum that ranges from completely running a farm to having an off-farm job. It’s tempting to look over the fence and wonder if you have it right. Should I be doing more out on the farm? Should I stop my involvement so I don’t have to drag the kids out farming on the weekend? Every farming family is different, making it unfair to compare our situations.

When our youngest started school, Duncan and I looked at whether I should move to be full-time on the farm and made the conscious decision not to employ me. I didn’t get the job.

I kept the job of farm office and farm backup. And while I may not be able to attach implements to the tractor, I can attach a document to an email and I do like the speed with which I can now move our stock – in NAIT that is.