Helen Hansen doesn't have much time to take holidays.

Life at the Whakapirau Rd farm she lives on with husband Chris is just too full on for the foreseeable future.

The couple are up early every morning to mix milk to feed the almost 800 calves they are rearing.

It takes several hours to mix the milk powder and get it into hungry little calves and then topping up their water, calf nuts and lucerne silage.


At present that's 1500 litres of milk in 500-litre lots.

Helen says they are aiming to rear at least 800 calves this year. They have done 400 in earlier years but decided to step it up this year.

They have plenty of room in covered yards and stables to keep the calves safe for their first few days and then they are out into a paddock.

Daughter Sarah, who has her heavy traffic licence, collects the calves from the weekly sale at Tirau and since it's a four-hour drive home there have been some late nights feeding and settling new arrivals. Then it's up bright and early the next morning to do it all over again.

"And that's after feeding the dogs and putting the washing on."

They won't be finishing all 800 cattle. Some already have new homes lined up after weaning and others will be sold as bull calf weaners.

The calves are a mixed lot of dairy breeds crossed with beef breeds, bulls and heifers, which makes for a colourful display when they are out soaking up the sun in the paddocks.

Helen's next job is her beagles.

The Hansen family is well known for its love of all things equestrian, especially hunting, so they decided to have a change and breed their own pack of beagles.

Harrier hounds, which are bigger than beagles, are the traditional hunting hound.
Because the Hansens want to keep it small they favour the beagle, also a hunting breed.

"They are traditionally hunted on foot but we have trouble keeping up with them on our horses.

"We are using them for what they were bred for."

Not all the beagles Helen breeds go into the pack. Some go to be family pets and the Ministry of Primary Industries has bought some for border security work.

Then, just in case she should think she has any spare time, Helen also runs a riding class once a week.

"They are mostly people who have either come back to riding after some time away or need some confidence."

The lessons are held at the farm and include farm rides, flat work and some jumping.

"It's great to see them improve and fun for Sarah and me."

Then she holds three-day school holiday camps as well for about a dozen young riders looking for adventure.

There won't be any camp these holidays because the calves come first, but usually Helen takes one group, Sarah another, for three days of hard work.

"It's great fun."

Now, about that holiday ...