Hands-on helpers love the life

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By RE­BECCA SMITH

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.

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