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Agriculture

Farming, family life a balancing act

Kim Stewart Dec 12
Farming, family life a balancing act
North Otago Federated Farmers sharemilkers’ section chairman Grant Tremewan says trust and mutual respect form the foundations of a successful business partnership.

With four young children getting work-life balance right is always a challenge for Duntroon sharemilkers Grant and Lucy Tremewan. But Grant, who is the North Otago Federated Farmers sharemilkers’ section chairman, sees it more as an industry wide problem.

“It’s something I battle with myself. We’ve just had a beautiful weekend weather-wise but we spent it working, not spending time with our kids,” he says.

One practical step they have decided to take is to continue to employ a full time labour unit after Christmas – something they would normally be looking to reduce at that time.“It will cost us but if it gives us more free time it will be worth it,” says Grant.

The couple are in their second season 50-50 sharemilking for Richard and Jacqui Watson on a 150ha effective property milking 500 cows and employ two labour units. Grant grew up Ashhurst at the western end of the Manawatu Gorge and studied at Lincoln Univer-sity in 1999.

He then worked on a variety of South Island farms and as an engineer before spending seven years running his family’s dairy farm at Geraldine, milking 1150 cows, before becoming a lower-order sharemilker for Russell Hurst in the Waitaki Valley. It was this experience of more intensive dairy farming that has led him to favour a simple farming system.

The herd is predominantly grass fed with around 350kgs of dry matter imported into the system per cow each season. Cows are wintered off farm.He has always been an advocate of the share-milking system as a way to progress to farm owner-ship and says sharemilkers make an important contribution to the industry.

“They are usually the ones that bring innovation, come in and look at things differently and find solutions to problems. In order to encourage sharemilkers it is important the industry supports them and takes a positive attitude around the future of dairy farming.”

His own sharemilking relationship has been based on trust and mutual respect, something he considers the cornerstone of a successful business partnership.“Communication is definitely the key. You are in business together.”

While initially, as the relationship was being established, a farm consultant was employed and the farm owners were more hands on, now Grant and Lucy are pretty much left in charge, keeping the owners up to date via email and farm visits.

Key areas the couple are focusing on improving are undertaking a re-grassing programme of around 10% of pasture each year, creating greater efficiency regarding how water is used and trialling fodder beet. They are both conventionally cultivating and direct drilling on a 5ha plot to compare results.

With regards to irrigation they have three centre pivots, k-line and movable sprinklers. Around 145ha is under irrigation and they are experimenting with how to place and shift sprinklers to suit the land and make best use of the water.

Riparian planting is being undertaken including with flax plants they purchased small then raised over winter to cut costs. The couple’s children – Ruby, 6, Henry, 5, Rosa, 2 and Greta, three months – are keeping them busy. Their next goal is farm ownership.

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