Dairying family on fourth shift

MOVING ON: The Tatham family are shifting from Tisbury to Mataura Island, near Wyndham.
MOVING ON: The Tatham family are shifting from Tisbury to Mataura Island, near Wyndham.

Jimmy and Keri Tatham sit in their kitchen among half-packed boxes, with newborn twins Aiden and Xavier snuggled in their arms.

As they box up the remainder of their belongings, their 23-month-old daughter Caitlyn points to a frame on the lounge wall. It is a memorial to their 20-month-old son Jack, who was killed in 2011 after getting into a holding pen of cows.

This prized possession will perhaps be one of the last packed away for the Gypsy Day move.

The Tathams had both planned to contract milk the 200 cows, but after Jack's accident Jimmy took on the main responsibilities, while Keri reared the calves and took care of the children.

The 75-hectare Waimatua farm near Tisbury has now been sold.

Jimmy saw this as an opportunity to climb the dairy ladder and plans to get into an equity partnership next season.

He will contract milk at a 160ha farm in Mataura Island, near Wyndham, in July.

The pair had hoped to be on the move sooner than Gypsy Day but their plans changed when Keri went into labour early on Anzac Day.

They had just started packing when the babies made "a quick appearance".

Now the family are living with Jimmy's parents and taking an extra month to pack up their farm machinery. The timing was good for them because it meant their 7-year-old daughter Amelia could transfer to her new school in a new term.

The Waimatua farm was home for the past three years and Keri would have liked to stay longer. This will be their fourth move.

"You just start creating memories in a house and then you move and it's like ‘ah here we go again'."

Southland has been deemed the land of milk and honey but Jimmy says not everyone is rolling in it.

The lure of big bucks attracted many people into the dairy business and admits he too had thought like that.

Now he was more realistic.

"No-one is going to buy a farm and be a millionaire in the first year. It will be quite a while before you get anything out of it."

This year he was up against lot of competition for jobs in the lucrative industry and it was hard to find work on smaller operations, which he preferred.

"The big corporate farms are out to get every dollar. Too many people get tied up with making money.

"I guess that's why we do small farms."

During his first year it was farm first and family second, he says. But now things had dramatically changed. He does not want dairying to take over his life and after Jack's death he made sure his family remained his top priority.

The Southland Times