There's nothing like the smell of freshly cut pine to make me feel festive. I've spent the last fortnight chopping up pines toppled in a storm.

It made me wish we'd left our fake Christmas tree in its box and decorated a real one instead.

The cows are used to seeing me in wet weather gear or a milking apron. But, when I turn up in a neighbouring paddock with a chainsaw and wearing protective gear, curiosity gets the better of them.

Nosy cows line the fence, hoping they'll get to sniff and lick my different attire if I wander over afterwards.


The grass is still lush and green here in Taranaki.

It's been a challenge to manage this spring. But we've maintained the quality by selectively mowing paddocks before the herd grazes them.

I use the rare days when there's no wind or rain to spray weeds while they're still small.

Our two dogs often tag along to supervise and make sure I don't miss any.

There's been a lot of late ducklings hatch on the farm this year.

It's not uncommon to see a mother duck being followed through long grass by a line of little black and yellow fluffballs.

Ten weeks of AB (artificial breeding) comes to an end on Christmas morning, meaning I'll be able to pack away the tail paint.

We'll find out how many cows are in calf at pregnancy testing in late February.

It'll mean we only need one person in the milking shed in the mornings again, which will hopefully mean the odd sleep in.

Everything's started to wind down for the year.

Our last DairyNZ discussion group before Christmas was down the road at a mate's place.

The main topic of discussion was summer crop management.

I've handed in my final assignment for the Human Resource Planning and Management module of the NZ Diploma in Agribusiness Management, which I'm studying through PrimaryITO.

I can't believe I've finished already.

I've learned a lot of new skills about hiring a staff member, identifying their training needs, keeping them motivated and managing their performance.

It also gave me another opportunity to update our Health and Safety Plan.

I now have another folder of resources and useful templates, which I've designed as part of my assignments, to help our business run more smoothly.

I'm looking forward to starting the Financial Planning and Management module next February.

We attended a two-day course run by DairyNZ when we first went contract milking which used resources from that module.

It was fantastic and taught me budgeting, cash flow, coding, tax and GST filing skills.

I had the opportunity to fly to Wellington earlier this month to present a seminar to delegates at the Dairy Environment Leaders' Forum.

It was inspiring to be in a room packed with 100 dairy farmers who're planting trees and building wetlands to bolster wildlife on their farms.

My presentation focused on using social media to tell positive stories happening on farm.

It was a theme echoed by other presenters at the conference. Consumers want to know more about the origin of their food.

New Zealand farmers are perfectly placed to share photos of their content grass-fed cows, which live outdoors. That's our key marketing advantage.

Hopefully by the time I write my next column, summer will have arrived.

- Taranaki farmer Brad Markham, a former journalist, writes Farm Life as a PrimaryITO blog
- If you're keen to take control of your future, enrol in Primary ITO's Diploma in Agribusiness Management. Visit the website or call 0800208020.