Second hand TradeMe buys boosts farm change

CONVERSION: Mike and Ryley Short have converted a sheep and beef farm to dairy after buying  a lot of what they needed off Trade Me.
Fairfax NZ
CONVERSION: Mike and Ryley Short have converted a sheep and beef farm to dairy after buying a lot of what they needed off Trade Me.

Ryley Short says that when the Fonterra tanker first came to collect milk at her Mt Stewart farm there were 10 people there cheering. They were all involved in converting the farm to dairy, wanting to see it succeed.

"The tanker driver was a bit surprised," Ryley says. "He asked if this was the first milk picked up. It was. It had been a sheep and beef farm before the conversion."

The switch by Ryley Short and her husband Mike to dairying is a conversion with a difference. They have relied a great deal on Trade Me for secondhand equipment, which they often get cheaply. Even the dairy shed came through the online auction website.

Mike Short says he is addicted to Trade Me, buying the shed and some pipes and gates from a Taranaki farmer.

He also bought the colostrum tank, the quad bike, calf trailer, irrigator and fertiliser spreader and ute, on Trade Me.

And that's just the farm equipment.

The Taranaki farmer was going to scrap the herringbone dairy shed when a friend suggested he put it on Trade Me. It was adapted for the Mt Stewart farm.

Mike and Ryley wrote in their wedding invitation that they wanted to buy cows for the converted farm.

Some wedding gifts included money for cows. The ones they got have special ear tags. They bought 35 cows off Trade Me.

"The conversion was the hardest thing I have done in my life," says Mike.

He is still putting in gates and troughs.

They say they couldn't have done it without Mike's parents, who live on the Mt Stewart farm, as well as engineer Grant Bowater, who helped Mike cut the shed from its Taranaki farm. They had to wait until the end of the season because the farmer was still using it while his rotary shed was being built.

Mike and Ryley say Bowater was crucial and resourceful in the conversion, delving into a box of parts, and finding useful things and installing them.

Builder Chris Wilson was another key figure in the project, as well as contractor Alan Sutherland.

The couple met at Fieldays. Mike Short won Rural Bachelor of the Year at Mystery Creek Fieldays in 2009. He returned the following year as a judge.

Keeping an eye on him in the first year as bachelor was Ryley, who was working as an events co-ordinator.

On his return the following year, he tapped her on the shoulder and she was shocked but delighted to see him again.

"I literally ran to my boss and said 'I've found my husband'."

Eight months later in February 2011, Ryley moved from her Waikato home to Manawatu. In March last year they were married and they are expecting their first baby in November.

"I am from a farm and have always wanted to stay living in the country," Ryley says.

"I loved Mike's rugged look. While it sounds weird, he is very similar to my father. He has such a soft heart and is so kind, hard working, is heaps of fun and ruggedly handsome. The quintessential Kiwi guy."

At the time Ryley had a "really good job" and had just bought a house in Hamilton. But she gave it all up and made what she describes as the best decision of her life by moving to Feilding to be with Mike.

Mike was raised on a sheep and beef farm, and has been focusing his attention on the conversion.

He and Ryley have taken an unconventional approach. They sold their house and live in a converted two-bay shed.

Ryley laughs about how she lived in a house when they first married and have progressed to a converted shed.

Before calving last year, Mike stripped back all the plant and rejuvenated it. He and Bowater changed many things. They prepared the foundations and installed the pipes themselves.

The 70-hectare farm is owned by Mike's parents, and Mike and Ryley own some land and lease some. They run 140 friesians.

Mike's mother helps feed the calves.

"And Dad fixes things. We couldn't have done it without their support."

Mike says part of the move to dairying was so he could work for himself. He likes being responsible for the cows and pasture. He does most of the milkings by himself but a relief milker has just started so Mike can have some days off.

Ryley says having the baby in the converted barn, or one room, means they may all miss out on sleep.

"The hardest thing in Mike's life was doing this conversion - wait until we have the baby."

But early waking is not a hardship for Mike.

"If I am woken, I'll just get up early for milking."