For The Love Of Farming
Whilst farming has a tendency to dislodge well made plans at the best of times, the hotter, drier months tend to put pay to any planning at all. On paper, it’s a relatively quiet time of year - shearing, weaning and dipping are all completed before Christmas, along with buying and selling cattle. But it’s water that keeps farmers on their toes, interrupting BBQs and camping trips over the summer holidays. 80-90% of their stock are reliant on troughs for their drinking water. A bull or cow in the summer will drink around 80 litres a day, so when one manages to pull a water pipe apart, or knock a ballcock off, you can pretty quickly have not just one trough down, but a whole block on the farm without water. Many an amazing Kaipara Harbour sunset has been watched from somewhere out on the farm while waiting to make sure that every animal has water to drink in their paddocks.
“If you’re on holiday in the north of Auckland this summer, here are some animal statistics for you: We have about 220,000 sheep in Auckland and about the same number of cattle (beef and dairy).” Auckland farmer Nicky Berger says. “Add horticulture, viticulture and aquaculture, and you’ll soon realise that we are still very much a food growing region, despite the massive increase in human population and cars.”
With a farming community comes farming activities – shifting stock and tractors along local roads, noise, the life (and death) of animals, and early morning helicopter flights come to mind as being factors that people don’t necessarily consider when deciding to move to a rural area. “Many small rural communities such as ours have been rejuvenated as people have moved to the country, and I hope that people continue to embrace the noise, smell and occasional inconvenience that goes with farming.” says Nicky.
“Sometimes when you tell someone you’re a farmer they assume that your work is moving a few mobs in every morning and a couple of times a year you get a bit busier because of shearing or docking. Next time you catch up with a farmer, be curious, and really drill down into what their business looks like,” suggests Berger. Many farmers are running incredibly interesting, multi-faceted businesses balancing markets, pasture, animals and bigger strategies to ensure their business remains strong and sustainable. After almost 20 years in the sheep and beef sector, Nicky continues to be moved by the energy and passion she sees at a farm level and at a sector level. Like all vocations, farmers are always evolving as individuals and as a group. The cycle of action, reflection and action propels farmers forward, and helps with identifying solutions, rather than staying fixated on problems. “It’s such an exciting time to be a farmer and I’m grateful to be part of it.”
On a final note, 2018 proved to be a record lambing percentage for New Zealand. The guys at NZ Farming went looking for causation and may have hit the nail on the head when they spotted that 2018 also saw a proliferation of rams with mullets. Coincidence? Nicky thinks not.
‘GrassFed in the City’ is an engagement project founded by Nicky Berger and fellow farmer (and Auckland Balance Farm Environment Award Winner) Clare Dill to share perspectives from both sides of the farming gate.