Separating work and home life key

Separating work and home life key
The herd winds its way to the milking shed at sharemilker Kieran Clough’s Eltham, south Taranki farm. Inset: Partner Olivia with some canine companions.

Working long days, long weeks; calving during a seemingly never ending wet winter; trying to feed cows during the long dry – some days it’s just not nice being a farmer and you wonder why you’re doing it, says young South Taranaki farmer Kieran Clough.
But then you remember that the sun will be up the next day, even though you may not be able to see it, and as Kieran says, you know that things will always come right.
He says you just have to separate your work life on the farm from your home life, and he’s grateful for the support he gets from his partner, Olivia, who is now well used to the stresses and strains of farming life.
“Olivia is always there to talk to about what’s happening on the farm. She’s an awesome support person. If I’m working those long days and weeks I know that I can come home to a stress free environment at home – and a cooked meal.” Kieran is low-order sharemilking on his parent’s 122 effective hectare farm, just south of Eltham.
All up the farm is 156 hectares but there are some deep gullies with about 13 hectares of native bush, along with a couple of pine forest blocks, a river and a couple of creeks.
Picturesque Lake Rotokare Reserve is about 4 kilometres in a straight line from the farm so native birds often grace the skies above the farm en-route to the native bush in the gullies.
Kieran and Olivia purchased a 43ha runoff at Pukengahu in 2103, home for 90 heifer replacements and 90 calves. The run off is about 15 minutes drive from the home farm and Kieran’s parents live there, tasked with looking after the young stock.
“Mum and dad actually look after the calves from the time they’re in the calf shed on the home farm till they’re out and then dad carries on till the calves are weanedwith the help from us.”
Up until this season, the runoff was also used to grow maize but it’s been too wet and Kieran says the plants were just drowning. “We’re a system two farm and this season we’re growing just under 11 hectares of maize on the home farm. We have in-shed feeding so they get a soya bean hull/palm kernel mix in the shed.
The rest is pasture on farm. We also have a bit of winter grazing so we take about 250 cows off the farm for 6 weeks in the winter.” Maize is fed on a small feed pad.
“We trickle the maize in over calving just to keep the condition on the cows, so we’ll use that for 3 -4 months from the start of calving. Depending on how the season goes we’ll use it a bit for maize at the end of the season as well.”
Kieran and his farm assistant are peak milking 410 spring calving cows this season, through a 40-aside herringbone with automated wash through plant and vat. Yard master cannons on the side of the shed clean everything down at the end of milking.
Kieran transitioned to 16 hour milking in December as a tool to retain condition on the cows because of a feed shortage during the dry period. While condition was retained, production suffered mainly due to the feed shortage.
“December, when it started getting really dry we finished about 15% behind, January was about 25% down and so far in February we are 11% behind—mostly because of the shortage of feed.”
Kieran says the cows are looking really good at the moment and the pasture has recovered so it’s likely he will go back to twice a day in a couple of weeks, expecting March and April’s production will improve significantly.
“Before this season our three-year average was 190,000kgMS and that is pretty much the annual target going forward. There is always room to improve production but it comes at a cost.”
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