One-legged beef farmer shears

Chris Biddles and team have managed to harvest plenty of hay and balage, and despite being an amputee, has managed to shear some of his sheep.

In Home Block5 Minutes

Unlike so many readers we have been very fortunate to dodge all the damaging rain of the summer but have had regular rain.

We managed to get our balage done in late November a month late and of pretty average quality for half of it.

Our hay was done in mid-January. We knocked about 50ha down in one day with two mowers. I finished my last paddock at 10pm with my wipers on. That moisture (2mm) was expected and the only moisture the hay got.

The baling was worked around two funerals. A midmorning celebration of our neighbour’s life. She was 93 and still living on the farm that boundaries the end of our farm. The other funeral was midday for a wonderful friend of ours and our whole community. Ted, at 74, was still active on his farm but lost a four-year battle with cancer. Both funerals were big but Ted’s packed our rugby club and probably had another 150 people outside.

We were fortunate for the second time this spring/ summer to string together nine days without rain and have all the hay in sheds. In 50 years of farming I have never seen so much grass on our farm at this time of the year. The whole district is commenting on the abundance of clover and in particular the red clover in places we have never had it before. I learned 30 odd years ago that without good moisture levels you will struggle to get good clover growth.

The irrigation system I referred to in my last article (a $300k nightmare) is now two years into its construction and still the contractor has not completed. Promises regularly that he will be here to finish the job but it does not happen. A very blood-pressure-raising issue, so best I stop now.

As we have no interest in just eating beef we run a flock of 35 ewes. With lambs and killers we have a total of 70 to shear. We have a young guy who has shorn them the last couple of years. We struggled to get dry sheep when he was available. I decided this would be another challenge for me as an amputee. So I locked up nine killers we needed to deal to and was very pleased to manage to shear them on my own.

When Ben got here in December I decided he would not have all the fun and took a stand and pushed out another 15 to help him. Satisfying for an old bugger with one leg.

We were fortunate to pick up a new man just before calving. Anaru had little farming experience but has proved a very quick learner. I quickly gave him responsibility to tag, weigh and record calves in one or other of the mobs. I was able to carry and tag calves also which was another satisfying box ticked. There is very little I am unable to do. The biggest difficulty is standing for long periods, such as in the yards. My good leg is quite sore by the end of a long day.

Yesterday was another test for me. We joined daughter Joanne and her kids at Glinks for an afternoon netting. The sea was quite big but good conditions for netting. I had netted last year in the early days of wearing a prosthesis but had to take the shallow end of the net for the first time in 40 years. Yesterday I managed the deep end with Joanne on the shallow and Karren keeping an eye on it all. We managed a good feed of mullet, probably our favourite fish to eat especially straight out of the sea. Another box ticked.

The last word for this column. Life is pretty good when I think back to lying in hospital exactly four years ago knowing I was lucky to be alive but with some pretty horrific injuries. I cannot say it often enough, as farmers we need to be so careful working in a fatigued state.