Shiralee Seerden welcomes the extra business of a contract milking position to run alongside the family sharemilking operation.

When deja vu comes a knock’in offering a contract milking position to run simultaneous with our 50:50 sharemilking job, we had the advantage of knowing we had successfully accomplished this seven years ago in Norsewood, with practically identical number of cows and the vacancy opening up at the end of April.

Once the normal facts and figures were sorted, finding the right employees at this time of year also had to be a high consideration as to whether we signed on the dotted line.

In days gone by our two eldest and myself were able to take more active roles if needed to fill in any employment shortfalls. Fortunately this scenario still works for us, however succession has seen children one and two replaced by three and four.

We place high value on educating our children in the trade of farming. While we have no expectations for them to remain in the industry, having skills in the backbone of our society is important to us for three reasons; having supporters in other work sectors who have had grit in their teeth are more likely to share a morsel of veracity if they choose to come back into farming they already have a heads-up; thirdly with debt a huge burden on young people, ours are able to save and take advantage of the bosses and facilities!

Ironically it was through the last recession we first ran both farms. The contract milking position and Fonterra’s last Guaranteed Milk Price worked well in our favour, still it took a few years to work back to where we were before the hit. But by then everything had changed, banks with tighter lending, environmental issues escalating and the world looked different. Move forward today with Covid-19 things look more intense and the Guaranteed Milk Price is back!

True to form staffing in May was taxing, delivering us a skeleton crew, young and fairly inexperienced. It was risky, but do-able with a guise for me as gap-filler. Murphy’s Law kicked the head off our skeleton with an employee abdicating. Still with two weeks before planned start of calving it was not the time to start panicking!

Better the loss now when we have time to think rationally, and restructuring is easier when you’re not up to your elbows in membranes. Instantaneously my inconsequential role changed to fulltime manager.

With the cobwebs cleared out of my Red Bands I kicked it up a notch, driving the team two hours away to attend DairyNZ CalvingSmart. Participating in training myself seemed the wise thing to do after sitting on the sidelines for so long, besides it’s always helpful to know what our personnel are taught.

Getting everyone on the same page from the beginning has been our goal; at the same time having fun along the way is part of our recipe to strengthen relationships.

Primary ITO next entered the scene with a house call, offering courses to be run later in the year, succeeded by a vet converging on farm; with Powerpoint in tow parallel to practical hands-on training. Even Rob was illuminated on a couple of facts; who said “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?

Discussion group allowed the staff interaction with agricultural professionals and neighbours, whilst the calibre of dialogue meant they couldn’t digest everything they individually each learnt something new. Rounding up our six weeks of education was DairyNZ Pasture Plus. Did we achieve our objective? I hope so, this is a journey not a destination.