After a mild winter, snow hit Southland sharemilker Mark Chamberlain at the start of calving.

Former All Black captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, famously coined the phrase “game of two halves” and as we head towards the halfway point of our milking season, which for us is Christmas Day, I can only hope that his quote relates to us. Christmas Day, our half time break, will give us a chance to reflect upon what has been a truly horrendous first half of the season. Hopefully we can reflect on it, put it to bed, and begin to look forward to the downhill run till May.

The overly mild winter here in the south, was soon sorted with a major snow event at the start of calving that was akin to a good old-fashioned gut-punch. And before any do-gooders reading this get upset – yes, the cows had shelter, a large stand of trees. But I’m not going to lie to you, of course there was mud. Lots of it. But we managed it; uplifting the calves as soon as possible to a dry, warm shelter with a belly full of colostrum. Although this is tiring it is immensely rewarding. We don’t get caught up in the emotion of calling cows pet names – each to their own, I say. For us, it is a little like the All Blacks – respect the jersey (pun intended). Or in our case – respect the number in the herd. Even through the simply act of caring for and respecting that individual cow, this will have a positive effect on production. A win-win situation.

I have also been a busy boy on the social front. A recent trip to Auckland to see U2 with some like-minded farming friends was a great way to decompress. Bono (net worth $700 million) was of course in fine form, preaching about poverty. Surprisingly, talking to a lot of Aucklanders, farmers appear to have massive support with the one common thread amongst all, the desire to do better. A common goal that most farmers have always shared. More surprising, was Sunday morning being dragged around some shops with my lovely wife (hands up who can relate to this?), when we happened to bump into our bold leader, Jacinda Ardern. I introduced myself as a Southland farmer and acknowledged our differing political views while also affirming the respect I have for the important position she holds. Without missing a beat, she was warm and engaging. Regardless of how you may view her politics, for a Prime Minister who is not yet 40, being able to hold together a coalition government that includes Winston First and the Comrade Greens; you must tip your hat to her. Time will tell, I suppose.

I have also recently had tours of the Fonterra Edendale and Stirling sites. Both are impressive. What was obvious was a high standard of professionalism and attention to detail. I highly recommend these tours to anyone who is interested. I also attended the Fonterra AGM in Invercargill, at times a tedious meeting, which was certainly spiced up by no less than four calls from the floor for the big cheese himself, John Monaghan, to resign. Awkward.

I also attended a DairyNZ meeting with Jim van der Poel who was incredibly engaging. He explained the break down of how our levies are spent and while the cynic in me says, at times, that we can do without DairyNZ, the pragmatist in me recognises the need for it. If I had one Christmas wish, it would be that Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and our beloved Beef + Lamb would all paddle the waka in the same direction, at the same time.

It has been long on my bucket list to see the Boxing Day cricket test, so this Christmas (with the blessing of my family!) I will be flying to Melbourne to watch two days (all four innings, hopefully) of the game. A great start to the second half, I hope. Season’s greetings everyone.