Getting the work/life balance right is a fluid state of being, as South Canterbury’s Frances Coles has discovered.

Dairy farming is a hard business. Unlike other professions, you don’t have the luxury of getting to leave the paperwork on your desk until the morning or shut the door to customers at 5pm.

We give a lot of ourselves – to our stock, our properties, our teams and our communities. Sometimes without a lot of thanks.

Work/life balance is a term bandied about a lot over the years, and when I was younger I naively thought it was a case of getting to a magic ratio of work hours to fun time.

I just had to make it to the magic number and stay there.

However, I’ve learnt that leading a balanced life is more of a fluid state of being, depending on a range of factors. What’s your stage of life? What other commitments do you have outside of work? How full is your tank, health-wise? Do you have a good level of physical and mental reserves to call on or have you been under the hammer for some time?

We have a busy few months ahead of us in our business. This week we’ll be joining many of the other regions around the country who have already been part of the industry-wide testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis, sending away two samples within a fortnight to be collated with a bulk milk test by our dairy company.

We have changes afoot at our equity partnership farm with a contract milker coming on board next season, so there are preparations to be made for handing over many aspects of the farm management to them and seeing our current staff into good quality jobs.

We’re hard at work getting the second of our farms accredited under Synlait’s Lead With Pride programme, which recognises best practice farming with a premium on our milk payments.

There’s herd testing to be done, culling decisions to be made, feed budgets to be managed for the autumn and winter.

Plenty to keep us busy.

The most exciting preparations though are related to taking possession of another farm on June 1. This has been purchased by a group of people we first became involved with six years ago after one of those casual conversations over a beer on a summer’s evening with a good friend.

He was looking to invest a little money in some way, seeking to get ahead faster than wages alone would allow. We had some capital from an investment coming free soon, and before long we had a number of other couples interested in pooling our resources and experience to do something bigger together.

With a mix of farming, rural banking, fertiliser and administrative backgrounds pooled together with our cash, we secured a 50:50 sharemilking job in North Otago and set about working hard to improve production on the farm, trade excess stock and grow the group’s farming experience.

Some shareholders have chosen to move on and a few new ones are coming on board for our next step, but that’s the beauty of the company – nobody has a shareholding large enough to put the whole venture at risk if they leave and it’s set up with high equity levels so we’re well-placed to take on new opportunities as they arise.

There’s already talk of onfarm working bees and everyone’s really excited about the prospect of land ownership.

So the reserve levels could potentially drop in the coming months, but Aaron and I will be sure to squeeze in plenty of downtime too, ensuring we keep our lives as close to the elusive sweet spot