After growing up on her family dairy farm, Amy Gemmell didn't envisage a life back on the land. Instead training as a teacher, she started her career in Taranaki before returning back to the Manawatu when her (then partner) Greg came to manage her parents dairy farm. A few years later came marriage and then three children within three years. Amy continued as a relief teacher, and was approached to set up a Mainly Music based in Bunnythorpe later changing this to Little Bunny's Playgroup, as well as voluntarily leading music sessions at other ECE centres. "It was a real period of chaos, the twins were only 8 weeks old when we started back after Christmas one year, but the kids and I got so much out of it and we have made life long friends with many families".
In 2013 the couple started 50:50 share milking on the family farm under the company name 'Herd You're Busy Limited'. Amy took on more of a financial and paperwork role and they always made key decisions together. In 2015, when discussing updating their 24 a side heringbone Amy's dad came up with a surprising suggestion. "Dad is really into vintage machinery, so it was a huge surprise when he investigated a Robot Farm up North and came back promoting the idea to us all." It was a really quick decision for them all, and by July of the following year they had 3 Lely robot milkers installed.
On the introduction of the robots, Amy became more involved in the day to day work on the farm. Initially the cows required a bit of training in order to get used to the flexibility of the new 24 hour milking systems that robots allowed. "Every cow is different and there are lots of influences like the weather, time of year etc, some effectively become once a day milkers and others up to three times a day. "The robot keeps track of milk production for each cow as well as keeping an endless amount of data that we can call on if and when we need it". Amy helps out with maintaining the robots, keeping them super clean and sterile, as well as technical support and takes responsibility for the computer side of the operation as well as rearing the calves twice a year.
The 230 cow farm, which supports two families and calls on a relief milker when required, has changed from a chemical to a biological fertiliser system and has seen a boost in animal health as well as milk production. The Gemmell's happily open up their farm for interested groups and conduct regular tours to show people how it all works. "The tours are a real opportunity to show positive farming stories, and to really support telling the all important agricultural food story". Amy has really developed her passion for the industry and by diversifying the way that they farm she has discovered her niche. "I love the calmness of the cows as they bring themselves up to be milked, there is no stress on them. The cows were really quick to learn the systems and they seem to love the routine."
What a great story of how you have embraced change and diversified your style of farming for the better. It sounds as though your family really understand what it is to access what can be done with farming technology and take on a challenge head on. We are always interested to see how others make farming work for them. Awesome stuff Amy.
Photo of Amy with the calves is credited to NZDairyFarmer, Sonita Chandar.