Looking on the bright side

“We’re all in the same storm, just different boats” rings true when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on farmers around New Zealand.  Despite challenges for all, most will agree that being an “essential” is a good waka to be in.

Let’s hear how things are panning out for two regional winners of the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

Nick and Rose Bertram, Woodville
Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year

Seizing opportunities and working smart are all in a day’s work for Nick and Rose Bertram.  The young couple (with five kids in tow) have had to look hard at their cashflow management after drying cows off two months early due to drought.

“We got good milk payout compensation but there won’t be another decent milk cheque until October.  To even out our cashflow, we’re going interest-only on our mortgage for the first half of the season.  Then in the second half we’ll pay twice as much.  That way we’ll be in the same financial situation this time next year as what we’d budgeted,” says Nick, 33, who has been farming for 16 years.

What to feed their cows was another burning question for the Bertrams, who are 50/50 sharemilkers on the McNeil’s 150ha, 440-cow Woodville property.

“We bit the bullet and put enough palm kernel on contract until Christmas.  We needed certainty and okay, we had to spend more, but we budgeted for that and now we can guarantee our production until Christmas,” explains Nick.  “We don’t have an in-shed feeding system, so it’s the best option and won’t upset animal health.”

Nick says it’s great to see more optimism in the farming community following weeks of concern.  “We’ve had more rain, the grass is growing again, and people are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Everyone has had to manage their farm and staff differently but farmers have all been really proactive.”

Ralph and Fleur Tompsett, Ashburton
Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year

“We’ve had a degree of insulation against disruption in the ag-sector throughout COVID-19 and I think many would agree we are pretty fortunate,” says Ralph and Fleur Tompsett, who look after 1130 cows on the Fleming family’s Ashburton farm.  “It’s a privilege to feel like we are running our business almost as usual while many are enduring considerable pain.”

The couple are equity partners in the 50% sharemilking business on the 297ha South Island farm.  Ralph and his four staff are focused on getting the farm into a suitable position for the coming season.

“We’re looking quite strong.  We’ve actually had a drier than normal autumn, which benefits our heavy soils, so we’ve capitalised on that.  Livestock are in good condition.  Winter crops are looking good.  The team is motivated and raring to go for the challenges of winter and spring.  We’re looking pretty well set up but that can always change at the drop of a hat.”