Kirsty and Nic Verhoek have taken stock of where they stand in a time of turmoil off the farm.

We don’t like the look of the industry going forward. A lot is going on outside the farm gate beyond our control that we do not agree with. Our preference is to focus on the crucial farm tasks at hand.

These are areas we enjoy doing and getting up for in the morning: mating, pasture management, feeding cows and turning grass into milk, summer crop establishment etc. These are areas we know what we need to do to be successful, we have control (mostly), and they have a direct impact on our bottom line.

But, if we want to stay in farming and influence what our future looks like, we need to be more proactive outside the farmgate.

The Government’s climate policy is shaping up to be one of our most significant policy challenges in our industry. This is happening during the running of day-to-day farm tasks, implementation of unorganised environmental legislation, coping with onfarm inflation and tripling interest rates, and seasonal climatic conditions that aren’t following typical trends (to name a few).

The stress and pressure on our farming community is evident. You only had to attend one of the many consultation sessions to observe farmers’ frustrations are at boiling point and morale is low.

So, we would be hypocritical to say we don’t like the look of the industry going forward and yet not do anything about it. Like with our onfarm tactics, we assess the situation and focus on areas that we can either have control or influence. In this case, having a voice is one option.

Our approach is to be more strategic with our time; currently it is to divide and conquer. Nic is running the day-to-day farm tasks and Kirsty is putting her time into admin that is outside the farm gate. It is important to engage in the He Waka Eke Noa consultancy process:

  • attend consultation meetings and get up to speed with the details,
  • give feedback.
  • make our levy work for us and reflect our feedback.
  • be a member of Federated Farmers.
  • fill in the farmer surveys, and prepare our own submission.
  • talk to our peers and get them revved up on this issue as well.

Not losing focus with happenings onfarm, over the last few months we pulled the trigger on some key management decisions. With grass failing to fire at its usual time, we decided to contract palm kernel in early September after almost a two-year hiatus. By contracting the extra feed it meant cows kept their condition into mating and have continued to milk ahead of budget this season.

After five months of drought we have changed up our summer cropping programme to target drymatter yields and trialled leafy turnip this summer on the milking platform.

So far, the decision to expand onfarm technology has been a good one. For mating we achieved a 90% three-week submission rate, with Halter taking a huge amount of pressure off the team for heat detection.

We continue to get letters in the mail from the bank informing us of our interest rate rises. To this end, we keep revisiting our budget and refreshing it with these changes and in other areas that costs keep going up. Keeping the budget accurate allows us to be strategic in where we make key decisions – particularly when to pay down debt and how much to pay.

We always look forward to Christmas as the pressure comes off. By this time, we have done almost everything we can to set ourselves up for the rest of the season. This will be our first year experiencing ‘school holidays’ with our first-born starting school in October. It will be good to have a change of scene from the farm to the beach!