On the Land
Few couples can spend 24 hours a day together.
But that's the reality for Mokoreta sharemilkers Kerry Campbell and Georgina Conlan, who live together and work together on a 300-cow dairy farm.
It's a small herd by today's standards.
The average herd size in Southland is over 500 cows, but the couple don't necessarily abide by the "bigger is better" ideology.
Kerry, 36, and Georgina, 28, are happy doing most of the work on the farm themselves which has enabled them to get ahead financially.
Kerry has worked in the dairy industry for the past 20 years.
Originally from Timaru, his mother told him he could only leave school at 16 if he got a job, which he did, milking cows at Glenavy.
He then took up a second-in-charge position at Methven before moving to Dunsandel where he met Georgina, a born and bred farm girl from Waikaka Valley, who was studying for a bachelor of resource studies at Lincoln University.
"Kerry came looking for me," Georgina jokes about their meeting 10 years ago.
It wasn't long before Georgina was helping Kerry out on the farm and they had moved in together.
They eventually returned to West Otago where they managed Georgina's parents' 760-cow dairy farm for two years and then took up another managerial position at Edendale before shifting to their current position at Mokoreta in southern Southland five years ago.
They signed up for a two-year contract as 30 per cent sharemilkers on the newly converted property before farm owners Bryce and Nicola Clark offered them the chance to buy the herd and become 50 per cent sharemilkers.
"It was a good step for us.
"Bryce was very encouraging about us taking up the 50 per cent sharemilking position," Kerry said.
As 50 per cent sharemilkers Kerry and Georgina pay the animal health bill and the Clarks pay for the capital fertiliser while urea and supplements are shared expenses.
Kerry believes Mokoreta is an under-rated dairy farming area because of its reliable rainfall because it is generally summer-safe.
However, an unusually long dry spell last season saw the couple switch to a 16-hour milking regime for five months.
Good pasture growth this season meant the couple were on target to achieve 129,000 kilograms of milk solids (430kgMS/cow).
Kerry and Georgina are focused on breeding a "nice little black cow" and use KiwiCross genetics for the four weeks of artificial insemination, following up with Friesian bulls where they usually have a less than 5 per cent empty rate.
The heifers are mated to Jersey bulls for easy calving.
Georgina rears the heifer calves and takes pride in the young stock which she refers to as "my babies".
They employ relief milkers when needed and aim to take at least one weekend a month off the farm which allows Kerry to race his street stock car at various events.
Three years ago they entered and were finalists in the Southland Sharemilker of the Year Awards.
"We wanted to see where our business was at.
"We got a lot of positive criticism that made us look at our operation," Kerry said.
They went on to win the Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award in the 2010 awards, of which they are particularly proud.
"It was an important award to win.
"We take a lot of pride in the cowshed and doing things right," Kerry said.
Next season they are looking forward to moving to a new farm at Menzies Ferry, near Edendale, milking 800 cows for the same owners.
It will be a big adjustment for the couple, milking twice the number of cows, but they are looking forward to the challenge, which will involve employing staff for the first time.
"It will be a chance to help bring other people through the industry."
Within the next couple of years the couple hope to own their own dairy farm or at least have a stake in one.
"The opportunities are endless, but I'd love to own a farm by the age of 40," Kerry said.
- Otago Southland Farmer