Hands-on helpers love the life
Wintec journalism student
With the spotlight constantly on the New Zealand dairy industry and culture, less thought is given to our upcoming Kiwi farming children and the essential role they play in all aspects of the farm.
Okoroire farm kids and siblings Cameron, 11, William,10, and Rebecca Leigh, 9, have lived their entire life on the Top Knotch Calf rearing property where they have been trusted with many responsibilities and obligations of the farm and business.
Cameron said he and his siblings did what they needed to do and assigned jobs could take anything from three to eight hours a day.
‘‘We do everything and anything. Recently we went with dad to our Te Awamutu lease block where we weighed and drenched 300 calves. We were also in charge of operating the drafting gate.’’
Mrs Leigh said the children basically did what they would have to pay more workers for.
‘‘They do everything really. They feed calves, round the calves up and help out on our dairy farm when need be. When the farm staff are away the family works together as a ‘team’ and gets the jobs done.’’
Top Knotch Calves is a family business that has been operating for eight years rearing around 7000 calves a year from a few days of age up until they weigh100kg. The system operates with three full time staff members and several university students who work on their breaks.
The facility accommodates three batches including autumn, early spring and late spring calves.
The farm work can be hard but the kids said they wouldn’t have it any other way. William said the farm assured them valuable life skills.
‘‘We could never live in town – there would be no space to do anything and you couldn’t be loud. The farm has also taught us that if you start something you have to keep working until you get the job finished and it can sometimes take forever.’’
Mother Joanne Leigh said that before the family made the move to the farm they had been in Mount Maunganui where she and her husband owned a property investment business. Although they both worked very hard the children didn’t really get to see their parents doing physical work.
‘‘We decided that we didn’t want to bring the kids up in town, we wanted to bring them up on a farm where they would have nothing in their way, no limits and we would be able to teach them the work ethic they need in life.’’
While Cameron and William think the best thing about the farm is the endless hectares to ride their bikes on, Rebecca said it was the freedom and space she loved most about the farm.
‘‘My favourite thing about the farm is the space, there’s nothing in your way, there’s enough space to do whatever you please like kicking a ball round and this you can’t do in town.’’
GETTING AMONG IT: William and Cameron Leigh check on the calves as part of a daily ritual.
FEEDING TIME: Cameron Leigh directs his calf club calf to the milkbar.