The Verhoek family are on the move from Wairarapa to the Waikato – all amid the Covid-19 shutdown.

Our last column, we were ‘taking stock’ and scrolling through the job vacancy lists. We have since sorted our 2020 season and secured a 50/50 sharemilking contract in the heart of New Zealand’s dairy capital – the Waikato. So, we are looking forward to a new season, a new farm and a new home.

Our transition from farm manager on a 900-cow system 5, split-calving operation in the Wairarapa, to a 740-cow, system 5, spring-calving 50/50 sharemilking position in the Waikato is a big leap. Especially, going from employee to employer.

There is plenty to organise for our new position; buying of stock and machinery, sorting grazing for young stock, feed inventories, budgets, finding the right team, rosters, packing, moving, cleaning, searching for a new kindy… and so the list goes on.

It seems our rostered days off are filled with travel to and from the Waikato, staff interviews, and meetings with bank managers, insurance brokers, and consultants. Although excited about the next step, the emotions are mixed. We are sad to be saying goodbye to the Wairarapa as it has a great community and been very good to us.

While we are working through the transition of one intensive operation and into another, the world is shutting down around us with Covid-19.

The upheaval of this virus is progressing faster than we know how to prepare. So, we are unsure of the extent of its impact and what it means for the future. At present, we are following advice and guidance from Federated Farmers and ensuring we are heeding our obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

We are also determined to finish our current role at Willow Park on a high note and make sure the boots we leave are big ones to fill. It is important to us that there is a good handover to the next person/team. We want everything in good order for our replacement, and that it remains business as usual for our current farm owners.

On our current farm front, autumn calving is all but finished. We hardly know what rain looks like in the Wairarapa with a long time between drinks. Despite most of the milking platform under irrigation, full water restrictions have meant that pasture covers are under massive pressure with near zero growth.

Like many others, we have struggled to get cull cows off farm. We are digging serious holes into our winter feed stores to ensure our girls are well fed and can continue to be milked twice-a-day. The girls are currently producing well, doing 1.5kg milksolids (MS), although somatic cell counts are climbing slowly.

Next on the agenda for the coming months will be further drying off and culling decisions, managing feed stores and contracting feeds, and getting things in order for our eventual departure.

With the work-front under a semblance of control, on the personal front, organisation for the upcoming duck shooting season is also taken very seriously. The maimai (duck shooting stand) working bee has recently been and everything is looking in top shape for this upcoming season. Surprisingly, even with the lack of rain, there seem to be plenty of birds on the pond.

The latest addition this season has been the construction of a 100-metre walkway through a swampy, planted wetland; something that can be enjoyed all year round. Considering all the chaos, the maimai aka ‘The Hilton’ is looking more and more like the perfect isolation retreat!