King Country farmer Dani Darke took a break from farming for the school holidays this year, to spend time with the kids.

I really don’t find myself in a good position to be writing about farming this month as I happen to be on ‘sabbatical’. After spending the past few years’ worth of summer holidays dragging the kiddies around the farm: taking them to do a ‘quick job’ (which has ended up being most of a day in the baking sun at the back yards), leaving them up at the house to look after themselves while I’ve been down the driveway in the cattle yards (shouting up every so often to make sure everyone was still okay), I decided this approach was causing way to much angst on my part, and there must be a better way.

So with the voice of many a wise person in the back of my head telling me “You only have 14 summers left with them at home…” I gently informed hubby that I was taking the next six weeks off to hang out with the kids.

I encouraged him to get someone in a few days a week to help out, but he was happy to go it alone (perhaps with the hope that all too soon I would feel like I was missing out). No such luck, as I have enjoyed (almost) every second of my time with the kids.

Without feeling like I am always supposed to be somewhere else, and rushing to fit it all in, we have had a leisurely, blissful, Kiwi summer filled with pony riding, mountain bikes, picnics and swims. I feel very grateful to be able to have had this time. And of course now I’m going to want to do it every summer, although I really should see if Anthony wants to have a turn next year…

I have, however, been keeping my ear to the ground. This amazing season (cracking spring, plenty of warm weather, lots of rain) has been great for bull weights, ewe condition and fat lambs: but on the flipside the fly has been challenging, and very difficult to stay a step ahead of.

Grass quality has also been blown to pieces on some parts of the farm (namely some of the hills where we don’t have the cows because of our bull system on the adjacent plateaux).

Having watched with keen interest, some of the Beef + Lamb Innovation Farm projects focussed on legumes on hill country, this year we were interested to have a crack at something ourselves.

Together with Ballance Agri-Nutrients, we have set up a trial to see what can be done in our environment.

Our trial consists of a high rate of potassium (150kg/ha); a chemical top (200ml glysphosate/ha); a deferred grazing site; and a control.

I know some of you will be instantly put off by the spray option, but the results are outstanding.

The clover has come away beautifully and everything else has been suppressed including the Californian thistle, which in itself is a major win. Apparently, the science shows that glyphosate is broken down via the rumen and rendered harmless, so I’m keen to get my eyes on the research.

If we can settle our consciences to it, next year we plan to greatly extend our area treated. This old bit of technology is pretty amazing really, and I wonder if the reason it isn’t used as widely is because the only salesperson winning is the helicopter pilot.

So back to work for me. My dogs will get a hell of a fright that their day no longer consists of slow pony walks around the hills, and Hubby will be disappointed that smoko scones are back off the menu.