Sophie Barnes is a first-generation sheep farmer from Derbyshire. She is currently travelling and working on different farms in New Zealand.
Travelling: 2015 was an unforgettable year. I have worked on farms in the UK, Germany, Canada and now I am shepherding in New Zealand.
It is quite strange to believe I have crammed it into one year. I hope 2016 proves to be just as exciting.
I have got 15 more months here in Kiwi-land and I am going to make the most of it. Once I have finished my work on my current farm I plan to travel south to learn more about genetics – the main reason I came half way around the world in the first place.
So far I have worked on three farms here, all of which are progressive and large. My current farm is 4,000 ewes, which is considered small.
Lambing: My first position here was a lambing job – indoors. Not commonplace in New Zealand but the farm has more than 2,000 triplets so they were trialling ways to improve survival rates. I managed around 280 per cent survivability in my wee group of 660 ewes, something I am quite proud of.
I bought my first farm dog a few weeks back, lovely Kate the Huntaway. We have had our ups and downs but just yesterday she decided she was not scared of quad bikes anymore which is a huge step.
I now understand the bond between shepherds and their dogs – I could not do it without her now. Working in paddocks is our next hurdle.
Christmas: I spent Christmas on a beach, Pimms in hand and not a sheep in sight. A far stretch from my normal Christmas – usually I am in my waterproofs lambing dairy sheep in Dorset.
Disease: I am definitely not complaining. However, Christmas does fall at a really inconvenient time here, with weaning, shearing and worming in full swing. The farm was go-go-go in the weeks leading up to our break.
Fly strike is a huge issue in New Zealand. The Australian Sheep Blowfly is a cruel animal. It drops eggs on the backs of sheep, regardless of whether they are dirty or clean – a real challenge for Kiwi farmers.
January involves more worming and shearing and hopefully lots of finished lambs off to the works.
Farm jobs: When we cannot do sheep work I have the unenviable task of spraying gorse and grubbing thistles. I have already issued a formal apology to all New Zealanders for the British introducing them to their country. It is a constant battle to stop it overrunning your farm, something I will be glad never to do again back in the UK.
In four months here I have learned so much. We bring in a mob to worm bigger than my entire flock at home.
At first it was a little overwhelming, but now I love the amount of farming work there is to do. It is really reaffirmed that I am doing the job I want to do and could not imagine doing anything else, wherever in the world I may be.