Moving Day is always a stressful time of year for New Zealand's dairy farmers – and this year help is on the way to ensure they take one of their most prized and necessary assets with them: the internet.
Moving Day, June 1, is basically the start of a new dairy season and sees a large number of dairy farming families, shareholders, contract milkers and employees move to new farms – some estimates number them at 5000.
It's not just people on the move; in many cases cattle are also being shifted from place to place, as is farm equipment. That's why Moving Day is sometimes more like Moving Week as farmers sort out complicated logistics.
This year it's even more complex. DairyNZ is urging sharemilkers and contract milkers who are moving to take up new jobs on June 1 to take sensible precautions to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19.
It's also why rural broadband experts Farmside are pitching in during this busy time to help farmers make arrangements to either transfer internet services or move to a new provider, offering a free two-month connection to new customers.
While the internet didn't play such an important role on dairy farms five or 10 years ago, now it's essential for receiving the information to make on-farm decisions as well as paying staff.
"And there's nothing worse than kids who can't get on their Netflix," says Farmside sales manager, Rosaria Weir.
The Timaru-based company has just over 21,000 customers, most based rurally, with dairy farmers making up a substantial number.
"We came into the market in the early 2000s and we've spent a lot of time getting to know the demographics of the industry," she says. "We're helping to make things as easy as possible because that's something we can do."
The company, taken over by Vodafone several years ago, has offered free relocation deals in the past to remove a lot of the stress when farmers are moving. That covers the full cost of a technician coming out to the farm to set them up properly if they can't simply take their modem with them, as is usually the case.
From April 1 to the end of June it's offering the same two-month free deal it had last year, which was taken up by 1200 new customers. A further 500 existing customers were helped out by the company waiving any relocation fee.
"We've had enquiries already and those are the customers we love," she says. "They're organising things now- the sooner the better."
Farmside's customer base has grown by 2500 over the last couple of years which Rosaria puts down to running its call centre out of Timaru, where most of its 45 staff are based.
"We're getting the best feedback," she says. "Customers say they can get hold of us quickly and we know where they live and what their lifestyle's like. They're dealing with a Kiwi who can help them out."
With Farmside's strong partnerships with companies such as Farmlands, Farm Source, Ruralco and PGG Wrightson farmers also have the easy option of charging the services it provides to their supply account, meaning they can consolidate bills into one easy payment.
DairyNZ say precautions against Covid-19 include avoiding in-person contact with people outside of the household and workplace where possible in the weeks before moving day. Where contact is required maintaining good social distancing and hygiene should be practiced.
It's also best for families planning to move to have an alternative plan should someone contract Covid-19 during the moving period.
For both Covid-19 and biosecurity reasons it's recommended cows are not milked when they're being transported, so drying them off is encouraged. More than enough time should be allowed for the move and farmers should plan ahead by working out the most direct route to their new farm, as well as moving their stock in daylight hours, avoiding peak morning and afternoon travel times.
High visibility clothing needs to be worn by those driving stock, as well as warning signs and flashing amber lights used on vehicles. If the move is being carried out on a local road or highway a permit's required from the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) and a traffic management plan needs to be submitted.
It's all a sign of the stressfulness of Moving Day and Rosaria says Farmside always looks forward to relieving farmers of that stress as much as they can.
Covid-19 has meant Farmside staff have been working from home since the start of February. But it's hoped a move back into the familiarity of their office may be able to take place right around the time when they're doing their best to help dairy farmers settle into to their new surroundings.