Southlander Suzanne Hanning gets a brew going to introduce herself to Dairy Exporter readers.

Hello there. It is really lovely to meet you. Come in. The jug is hot, would you like a cup of tea?

This time-honoured ritual happens not just when visitors come to our family’s door. We meet, greet, sort out, decide, congratulate and console each other over what is really, quite a humble beverage.

To be fair, some people prefer coffee or something stronger, but the principle is the same. A good old cup of tea can be consumed by everyone from a five-year-old to your great aunt Mabel. It  is simply a conduit to share a social experience.

So I feel, as I’m meeting you for the first time through this column, that we take a couple minutes, pop the kettle on and make ourselves a nice hot drink – if you want of course. Then you can sit down, relax and we can have a bit of a yarn.

I understand most of you live in this beautiful place called New Zealand? My husband and I live down here just north of Invercargill, in Southland. No, we don’t have penguins on the main street, although locals like to kid North Islanders that we do.

On cold winter nights, you can hear the polar bears roaring… apparently, although I have yet to hear them. If we can see Stewart Island from our cowshed, it’s going to rain. If we can’t, it is raining.

We have been fortunate enough to be the fifth generation on this farm and our three daughters are the sixth.

We have been fortunate enough to be the fifth generation on this farm and our three daughters are the sixth. Our oldest has come home, after completing a Bachelor of Agriculture and Commerce at Lincoln and working for a couple years as an agronomist, to be her dad’s 2IC. Our middle daughter is at Lincoln, studying a Bachelor of Science and our youngest is doing NCEA level 1.

We farm in partnership with my husband’s parents milking 650 little crossbred cows. We try to keep things pretty simple, but we’re closet control freaks.

We are fully self-contained, with the exception of 150 tonnes of silage and just enough crushed barley and DDG to entice our girls on to the platform, maxing out at about 1kg/cow/day. We’re not highly stocked, 2.8cows/ha on the platform, due to our heavy soils and the desire to try to find that magic balance of stocking rate, grass growth and not wanting to buy in too much supplement.

We winter our cows on crop (yes, we’re one of those farms) but do so with as careful management as we can, because really, without spending a couple million dollars on a wintering barn, there are no other economic options for our farm at this point.

So, now we’ve got to know each other, I hope you don’t mind if I keep you updated of a few topical things that crop up in Southland now and again. I’m by no means a journalist, but I do tend to talk… a lot. Feel free to jump on Facebook and check out our farm page for photos and the odd 2am brain fart. Thanks for the chat, I look forward to seeing you all again soon.