Thursday, 16 April 2020

Farming through COVID


Being geographically remote in South Otago, not a lot has changed for shareholder Nigel Woodhead during the COVID-19 lockdown, though he says he has to be a bit more organised to make sure he’s got the right products and services to keep his farm running. 

I have to be a bit more on the ball with my planning to get things organised further in advance these days, as I cant just pop into town and grab something that I need the next dayA positive has been spending more time with my child (Sienna), and wife (Leanne) who works from home. A lot of her work has been put back, so she has more time on her hands to spend helping me and bring Sienna out onto the farm.”  

The biggest challenge for Nigel has been the tight kill space which is pinching his feed supply. 

We still have about 400 works lambs on and about 200 of them have been ready for about 10 days now.  They are still doing ok, but they will be big lambs by the time I get some space.  I also still have all my big cattle on farm, partly due to tight kill space and partly due to last year’s drought meaning they are bit smaller than they should be.  Again, they are still doing ok but removing some would be a great help. 

Nigel has been using his liquid urea and gibberellic acid spray to help keep the feed levels up and has also been enjoying the challenge of planning ahead. 

The liquid (urea and gibberellic acid) will act very quickly to hopefully replace the feed being eaten by the remaining finishing stock. Fingers crossed we will get some rain in the next few days and I will be able to get some solid urea on too so we can push a bit of extra grass into the winter for capital stock.” 

In terms of managing staff and keeping people safe in his bubble, Nigel has been relatively unscathed as it is a family business with no extra staff. 

“It’s just Leanne and I really.My parents help us on the farm quite a lot, but they were away on holiday until the day before lockdown, so they are still self-isolating.  Hopefully in the next few days they’ll be able to start helping on the farm again. 

The plan is for my parents to then be in our ‘bubble’ so they can come to the farm and look after Sienna and help out.” 

While not a whole lot has changed for Nigel in running the farm, aside from using more nitrogen and better planning, he says the social isolation has been quite hard. 

“I’m quite a social person and enjoy getting off farm to play sport and catch up with friends at the pub. Not being able to do that has been hard, when you are isolated all week you hang out for that. What has helped is that everyone is in the same boat and reaching out a lot more on the phone and social media.”