Kids on the farm | Managing the farm and surviving the school holidays

Managing Rockley Farm and growing Rockley Angus stud while raising three kids makes for a busy life, especially over the school holidays. But, when we get the kids involved and play to their strengths, it’s a win-win. The kids help out and they learn a lot too.

Tim (12), Zac (10) and Emma (6) are each interested in aspects of farming and not so keen on others. Tim doesn’t really like working with cattle in the yards, but can move stock on his motorbike. Plus, he loves riding around the farm and monitoring stream life. He breeds chickens – New Hampshire Reds and Laced Wyandottes. He feeds and cares for them, sets the incubator, puts eggs under clucky hens…. He gets to keep the profits, which he uses towards buying Lego sets, and we get an abundance of eggs! 

Zac is really task-focused and likes to get the job done. He’s not there for the marathon – if he’s out on the farm for a job, and you end up doing three jobs, he isn’t happy. He has great stock sense and enjoys helping in the cattle yards. We know our bulls are really quiet, but we are always careful when the kids are working with the animals. Zac loves practising a range of sports on the lawn. Rugby in Winter and Cricket in Summer.

Emma, aka ‘Miss Muffet’, is the boss! She’s Phil’s shadow and is happy being out on the farm and part of the action. She loves feeding lambs, dogs and puppies, and riding ponies at the neighbour’s. She is also really good with numbers, and remembers everything so you have to be careful what you say around her. She helped tag the heifers and thinks that ‘Pink Cow 3’ is hers. She knows that ‘Cow 3’ had ‘Bull 66’ – she remembers things like that.

The kids pick up a lot from life on the farm. They know why the cows go to the works – our animals need to perform. When we talk about ‘the birds and the bees’ with them, we refer to the bulls and cows. Tim knows all about AI, and he wasn’t too happy when I put an empty semen straw with the bull’s name on it on the kitchen bench! Emma helps with AI too, but we stick to addition, subtraction and reading tag numbers rather than talking about ‘the birds and the bees’ with her.

Over the summer we’ve been rotating grazing, drenching, weighing and processing lambs, and making baleage and hay. For us, the key to getting jobs done and keeping everyone happy (most of the time). Having a plan each day is important but also a balance of work and play. If it’s hot – Get the farm jobs done and then head to the pool in the afternoon. Or setting a date to go to town to spend some hard-earned pocket money. We try to play to the kids’ strengths and we’re strategic about who goes where – if I’m in the office, a couple might stay at the house with me, while one heads out with Phil. The 1-1 works well, but we all come back together for smoko.