Time for a Christmas break

The fun of tractor driving has lost its attraction for Suzie Corboy on her Owaka farm.

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Cattle had good weight gains and only a handful are left now.

The fun of tractor driving has lost its attraction for Suzie Corboy on her Owaka farm.

After 25 years of farming together I know better than to ask or tell Paul how many sleeps there are until Christmas. 

November and December are always a rush to get tractor work done and get new grass sown and winter crops in the ground before a much-needed, and longed-for, few days off for Christmas. 

I admit tractor work is no longer my favourite way to spend my time, unlike when I was younger, and enjoyed spending days on the tractor, so I am guilty of trying to avoid doing many hours at the wheel and as a result Paul does nearly all the cultivation work. They are still making days after December 25, but if we don’t get a short break before the beginning of January there is no time before we start weaning and drenching lambs, mouthing and dagging ewes and all the necessary jobs that suddenly become urgent and essential .

I haven’t written a column since lambing and calving so a quick update. 

Calving our 125 heifers went well with less than 10% assisted calvings and apart from one poor decision on my timing of intervention we had good survival from calving those that needed help, and no vets required. Although I did wonder if I had made the right decision on at least one occasion, and question if the calf was going to fit through the small pelvis that was hurting my hand as I guided its large frame into the world. 

Lambing was average, not as good as I had hoped, but not as bad as I feared after the one day that the tailing contractor was here. 

We get most of the lambs tailed by the gang, and Paul and I do the few small mobs that aren’t worth setting up a big set of yards for, so we just walk them to the covered yards. Thankfully those few hundred lambs we did ourselves soon add up. Not to 150% which we would be happy with, but well over 140% which I pessimistically anticipated. 

Hogget lambing was not good, not even achieving 70% to the ram. We knew at scanning there were not many lambs, with hogget scanning being down 30% on the previous year.  Sadly we haven’t  yet achieved that elusive 100% hogget lambing that, when we reach it, Paul has told me we are allowed to retire.  

Modern wives don’t listen to their husbands anyway do they? Every lambing I threaten that this will be my last, especially when I can’t catch an ignorant hogget that quite obviously needs my help, or I am lambing a ewe that was missed yesterday and the dead lamb is not quite as fresh as it would have been yesterday. I think you all know what I mean. For some reason I keep coming back for more.

Our fodder beet crop fed the yearling cattle and 70 older finishing steers and heifers, until late October. The cattle had good weight gains in about six weeks of grazing it, and we killed quite a few straight off the crop, and only a handful are left now, and all but three of them could be killed if we were short of feed, and those three were very light cattle prior to winter. Next season’s fodder beet was  sown in late October, the earliest ever for us, so, as long as the weather delivers the necessary heat and moisture, and we get all the timing of the necessary sprays and fertiliser correct, then we should produce another good crop.

Life beyond the farm gate in 2021 has been different, but apparently the new normal. I still forget my mask when I leave the ute to go into a shop or eatery, as I don’t frequent town very often, and life on the farm is very sheltered from Covid.

I hope 2022 is a good one for us all and that prices remain buoyant and all the hassles of Covid do not become unbearable. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.