Pioneers ‘up to their armpits in mud’

Pioneers ‘up to their armpits in mud’
Bob Schmidt’s father, Milert, driving a tractor through a ford to do drainage work.

When Bob and Delwyne Schmidt were researching the history of their farm to prepare to enter the Century Farm Awards they uncovered stories that indicate the huge amount of work their ancestors undertook to bring the land up the standard that it is today.
“There was one tale of a digger having to be placed on boards as the ground was so wet. To move the digger they had to move the boards first. The men were up to their armpits in mud. That was to dig ditches to drain the land,” says Delwyne.
Today their 191ha dairy farm is beautiful fl at country perfect for milking their herd of 500 jersey /friesian cross cows.
Son Reuben and his partner Melanie are in their first season of contract milking as the next generation starts to make its mark on the land.
Bob grew up on the farm that originally came into the family in 1896 when his great grandparents, Anders Peterson Schmidt, who came to New Zealand from Denmark, and local Agnes Drake purchased 85ha at Woodlands, Southland.
He and Delwyne, who grew up on a sheep farm in Otautau, married in 1984 and farmed with Bob’s parents initially before gradually buying them out. In 2001 the farm was converted to dairy.
“We farmed sheep for 13 years and loved the lifestyle. It was a great upbringing for the children but not a big enough farm to support some of our goals which included giving the kids a good education and being able to back them in business opportunities in the future.
“Initially we planned to convert to dairy and sell, then buy a bigger sheep farm further out. But the location was great for young families so we ended up staying. We also enjoyed the excitement of dairy farming and its opportunities,” says Delwyne.
In 2007 they bought a second farm 75 kilometres away and converted that to dairy as well.
Located at Wakapatu, the 249ha unit milks 520 cows and their son Hayden and his wife Trudy are contract milkers.
Bob is in touch with his sons every day as they seek his experience and advice.

Pioneers ‘up to their armpits in mud’
PHOTOS: Early family photos of smoko in the paddock (top); haymaking and the Schmidt family farm and shelter belts today.

Bob still works on the farms, helping out where needed and keeping up with maintenance projects.
Delwyne takes care of the bookwork and indulges her love of horses.
They still live in the original farmstead on the home-farm and have added stables and an arena.
Over the years getting the right staff has been a key challenge and securing the right people with the right attitude makes a huge difference to farm life.
They have employed both locals and overseas workers and been lucky to have had some great people work for them, says Delwyne.
Going forward Delwyne says that they want to continue on with shelterbelt and wetland plantings, while sustainably improving production and environmental management practices.
They have recently changed to more biological fertilisers.
She says entering their farm for the Century Farm Awards has prompted them to delve more into the farm’s history and they have learned many interesting things.
For example they discovered that Bob’s Auntie Lizzie milked cows by hand until her 70th birthday when the shed got electric milking machines, and milked for at least another 10-12 years.
It is stories of grit and determination like that which make them focused on handing the farm on to the next generation, something Delwyne admits is increasingly a challenge.
Delwyne and Bob have two other children Tessa and Daniel, both of whom are employed by DairyNZ and enthusiastically challenge their farming systems with their dairy knowledge.
“We’re privileged to have family wanting to come back and get involved. It’s not an easy life but dairying offers them many opportunities.”
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