Getting ahead of jobs on the farm or lifestyle block

Tai Poutini Polytechnic Agriculture Tutor Bryan Harris

It’s usually pretty busy at this time of year on any farm, but in a couple of months we’ll be heading into the quiet season and there’ll be a bit more time to catch-up on some much-needed maintenance and clearing.

 The jobs carried out on big farms are often the same as those needed on any lifestyle block or decent-sized piece of land – just on a larger scale. Making sure you stay on top of things like fence maintenance, weed control, fertilising and general tidying will help keep your piece of paradise running smoothly and producing for you. The following tips and advice will help you get the basics sorted.

Weed control

There’s been plenty of debate in recent times about whether sprays like Round-up are creating health issues for those who use them or come in contact with them. Whatever type of spray you choose, the main point is to know what you’re working with and take the necessary precautions to keep safe. Here on the Coast, gorse control is an ongoing battle for anyone with a decent-sized piece of land – in fact, I once heard a farmer say the only way to get rid of the gorse is to sell the farm! There aren’t really any effective alternatives for gorse than spraying, so keep the following in mind next time you’re out there:

  • Take care when you’re preparing and spraying – follow the instructions, wear appropriate safety gear and watch what you’re doing.
  • Think about the environment you’re working in and where the spray could end up. You don’t want to spray near rivers or water ways for instance, or close to where you’re grazing stock.
  • There are different sprays and spray equipment available for different jobs so make sure you’re using the most appropriate tools for the job.
  • Know your product: school-up on the data tables, concentrations and likely impacts. It’s not as simple as going down to the local hardware store, getting a bottle of spray and going for it – you need to do your homework.
  • If you’ve got a serious job ahead, there are short courses you can do that cover all the ins and outs of health and safety around weed control.

Fence maintenance

This is a pretty straight-forward job, but one that needs constant attention. If you’re just starting out on a lifestyle block, you need to make sure your fences are in good order and you’ve got the right type of fencing for the animals you are going to run. There are plenty of different options and it’s something you want to get right.

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This is a really important area for farmers and it can make a huge difference to the productivity of your land. A soil test to see what you’re dealing with is a good way to start. Many of the big fertiliser firms will come out and do a pH test for you to help you get the right mix and make sure your grass is growing. Based on that information, they’ll make up a recipe specifically for you – a bit like baking a cake. A common place to start here on the Coast is looking at your magnesium levels, which will also help with stock health and issues like milk fever and grass staggers.

General tidying and maintenance

Keeping raceways clear of growth will help manage water flows during the winter months. You can also carry out any maintenance or servicing on farm equipment to keep things running smoothly.

Take care of yourself

Something often overlooked on a busy farm is the physical and emotional care we need to take of ourselves to make sure we’re working at peak levels. Fatigue is a big issue for many farmers – we work ourselves to the bone, then wonder why we fall over. Even on a lifestyle block, we’ll often come home from a full day at work then put a few hours in before we head indoors. Spending time with the family or taking a holiday during the quiet period is as important for the farm as all the other jobs.