Transition to motherhood proving a fine balance

Transition to motherhood proving a fi ne balance

Seasonal change is a normal part of farmers’ lives, but Tania Riddington and Tim Murdoch have had to make some major adjustments during the past season to accommodate their own new progeny.
Harrison, now eight months, was born in October last year at a busy time on the 130 hectare effective Culverden farm where the couple are 50:50 sharemilkers.
Owned by Tania’s father, Ken Riddington, the farm peak milks 460 Fresian/Friesan cross cows. Tania holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) from Otago University, and worked in microbiology before entering the dairy industry.
She was runner-up in the 2017 Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards. Tim was bought up on a sheep and beef farm, but worked in rural real estate before stepping into Tania’s role on the farm; the couple are both aged 35.
“It’s a better lifestyle choice for Harrison and it means that I can get out a bit was well with Tim coming to work on the farm,” Tania says.
However the transition to motherhood and relinquishing some of her roles on the farm at the busiest time of the year has been “pretty challenging”, she says. “I was quite heavily pregnant doing calving so that was quite hard, it was quite frustrating.”
Once Harrison was born she had to learn to step back and trust Tim and their full-time worker, that they could continue to run the farm well and quips “we’re still together”.
“Tim’s not going back to real estate any time soon.” Having good systems and processes in place was a key to ensuring a smooth transition.
“When we did the dairy awards that was really good because it made us have all these procedures in place, so if I wasn’t on the farm, everyone would be able to know what was going on.”
Tim is evolving his own ideas about how some aspects of the farm can be changed, and both he and Tania attend discussion groups. “We are definitely open to change and I’ve bought quite a few ideas and ways of doing things to the table,” Tim says.
He takes a keen interest in young stock. He enjoys seeing calves grow to heifers and return to the farm, after being grazed nearby, at a good weight and to become good producers as a result of being well fed and of their genetic traits inherited from their parents.
Total production for the season should be close to 210,000kgMS against a conservative start-of- season budget of $200,000, but Tania and Tim have a strong focus on profit per hectare rather than production alone.
Their share of the farm working expenses is around $2kgMS.Last year they bought a 120ha runoff block at Hawarden in partnership with Ken as an entry into land ownership.
During the past season there has been a focus on animal health, genetics and improving pasture quality. Tania says they aim to be proud of how they run the farm.
“We want a really quiet shed, a really quiet herd, we want to have out stock losses less than 2% yearly.”
Despite the personal changes, this year has gone smoothly and the season is finishing on a good note after a slow start in spring.
“This autumn’s just been one out of the box, it’s been amazing so we can’t really complain. It’s nice and warm, the grass is growing, the cows are producing. Production was 30% up in April.”
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