Moving house is a daunting prospect at the best of times. So spare a thought for Matthew Snedden who is preparing for Moving Day on June 1, the traditional time of year that dairy farmers move to their new farms.
He is merging herds from four farms in Northland and moving to his new sharemilking job near Kerikeri Airport.
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Matthew and his wife, Kortne, a teacher, also have to move their household and 2-year-old daughter Georgia.
He is currently drying off his main herd, earlier than usual because of the drought, which is a bit tough on the balance sheet.
Once herd selection is completed, he will be taking 550 cows to his new sharemilking job.
"Due to Covid-19 restrictions, herd selection has been made more difficult as selection of the animals has to be done from their profiles rather than being able to see the animal in front of you as well as having access to their lifetime information."
Matthew says his stock agent has been invaluable, and he has been helping co-ordinate the logistics of selecting the animals and organising transport.
"One of the herds is coming from Dargaville and some from Tangiteroria.
"To meet the vendors, we all have to travel in separate vehicles and be careful about keeping physical distancing.
"There has been a huge amount of travel, sometimes covering 300km in a round trip,'' he said.
Matthew is originally from Warkworth and boarded in Whangārei for his training at Ruraltech. Since graduation he has farmed in Te Awamutu and has been "gradually been working my way north again" to his most recent posting near Helensville and now Kerikeri. He's heading into his 10th season of dairy farming.
The new venture will employ two full-time staff and one casual, and the full-time staff will also be moving to houses on the new property.
Matthew concedes the new venture into sharemilking is ambitious but "it's the right opportunity with the right owners".
"Our bank manager's jaw dropped when we laid out our plan, but we crunched the numbers,'' he said.
Matthew and his team will be milking 550 cows off 210ha with a 100ha runoff for young stock.
He will also be growing maize and chicory as supplementary feed.
He says cows from the different herds are used to mixing to a certain extent, "but there is a definite hierarchy" in the herd that will be sorted out as the cows settle into their four or five mobs.
Shifting house will be more challenging than usual under Covid-19 restrictions, as normally they would be able to call in other friends and family to help. Farming for the team will be "in a big bubble" as it would be difficult otherwise.
Mycoplasma bovis has been another factor for consideration in selecting animals for his herd.
"I have to be very careful and I won't buy any cattle from anyone who trades a lot. I'm very selective about where I buy them.
"I tend to try to buy through an agent who knows what I am looking for and the type of vendor I want.''
When looking at the profile of an animal, Matthew looks for the least number of herd codes as this shows how often an animal has been traded.
"It's more reliable to choose an animal that has been bred for quality with a goal in mind. They tend to be more consistent,'' he said.
Another cattle disease to take into consideration is Theileriosis, which is spread by ticks and causes anaemia in cattle, which can sometimes be fatal.
This restricts Matthew's choices to cattle in the North, as they have developed more resistance to the disease.
"The rule of thumb is: Don't bring cattle north,'' Matthew said.
He and his family are counting down to Moving Day, with herd selection done, drying off underway and stock trucks all booked.
Herd profiles with breeding and health records all have to be switched, National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) records updated and farm and household items packed.
And all in the middle of a pandemic.
Guidelines for farmers to ensure human safety and animal welfare needs are met during Moving Week will be available from DairyNZ and Federated Farmers.