Kirsty and Nic Verhoek found new ways of settling details for their new sharemilking business during lockdown.

It is amazing how things can change in the space of a couple of weeks.
We signed off our last Dairy Exporter article with the excitement of a ‘new season, new farm and new home’ only for Covid-19 to turn everything on its head.
No doubt we have not been alone with the Covid-19 chaos and we can only assume there are many others in the dairy industry experiencing similar frustrations.
The last month has been a massive logistical nightmare with our upcoming season preparations of a new 50/50 sharemilking venture in a new region. It will be a start to remember in years to come!
Covid-19 and lockdown has really tested our ability to be creative in preparation towards June 1, namely around recruitment, livestock and machinery buying /selling, and organisation of moving (stock trucks, movers etc.). With border lockdowns, getting the right staff with suitable experience has also become a challenge. Many contracts with foreigners are now unlikely to come into fruition if they are not already in the country.
Technology and communication have been our two best friends. Examples are: using social media to advertise for staff, interviewing prospective employees via zoom/skype, and getting them to send through photos of their house, motorbike, workplace etc. This has all helped with getting a feel for the person.
A big highlight has been using the online Federated Farmers contract builder via the Paysauce app to get contracts drafted and signed electronically – so no relying on face-to-face signing or ‘snail mail’ between parties.
The power of the internet has meant a lot can be done from a distance. Trolling ‘For Sale pages’ has allowed us to find most of what we need online. We have also used stock agents to look at stock on our behalf, using photos and videos to get a good idea of the stock condition/temperament etc.

We have taken a similar approach with buying motorbikes and other pieces of farm equipment.
With Covid-19 and the difficulty to predict one day to the next, communication has been key. Keeping in contact with movers and having contingency plans in place; communicating with stock movers and getting dates locked in early; keeping in constant contact with the new farm owner so that everyone is on the same page with an evolving situation.
A lot of the above has meant relying on relationships with key people. If there is anything good to come out of Covid-19, these relationships have become stronger and it has been great to have everyone rally together and be understanding of sticky situations.
Much to Nic’s relief, duck shooting season preparation has not gone to waste. It was looking a bit dicey at one stage and there were thoughts that Nic would have missed duck shooting for the first time in his 35 years. The only problem now is the lack of water in the pond. At the time of printing, the big dry has been continuing over much of the North Island, with many desperate for rain. It almost feels like a sense of foreboding; no doubt once the rain comes it will unlikely stop and present a wet start to the dry-off season.
We are looking forward to getting the months of March to May (and Covid-19) behind us and getting on with some dairy farming with calving season on the way.