While the majority of New Zealanders hit the pause button on their lives under the current Level 4 COVID lockdown, the same can’t be said for those involved in the thoroughbred breeding industry.
The onset of spring signals the most hectic period in the annual operations of nationwide stud farms and breeding enterprises as the busy foaling season commences, followed by stallions covering mares from September.
For Mark Chitty, Managing Director of Haunui Farm in Karaka, the lockdown is just another process that has to be incorporated into the 24/7 activities of the farm.
“It isn’t ideal to have the current situation with the lockdown and the associated ramifications, but we just have to get on with business as usual,” Chitty said.
“Being an animal-based operation, the care and welfare of our horses is paramount although now we have been through this situation before, it is a little easier to put plans in place for the scenarios we are presented with.
“For us it is a matter of working a tighter roster with dedicated staff in each bubble.
“We operate out of four properties, with mares foaling down 24 hours a day and each staff unit co-ordinates their activities in their bubble.
“We ensure they are taking all precautions like mask-wearing, sanitisation and the like, and given I live on the property, I take on a few extra duties as well.
“We have had to put our part-time staff off for a while, but hopefully we can get the lockdown eased as soon as possible and we can get them back on board.”
One challenging factor for Haunui Farm, which recently welcomed the return of shuttle stallions Belardo and Ribchester, is having to adapt to a breeding season without the annual influx of skilled horsepeople from around the globe.
“We have had our stallions arrive for the breeding season and that puts an extra strain on our human resources during lockdown,” Chitty said.
“These animals can’t be handled by just anyone and with our borders being closed we are struggling, like a number of other farms, to get the right people on board.
“That situation is not going to resolve itself overnight, so we have to take steps to put us in the best place to deal with it.
“We are encouraging all of our staff to get vaccinated as we see that is the only way we can get closer to situation normal, so we can get on with our lives and it will hopefully encourage the government to ease up some of the border restrictions.
“We have foaled down eight of the 165 to 180 mares that will foal on the farm this year, so we are really at the tip of the iceberg and getting this lockdown over and done with will be a big relief for everyone here.” – NZ Racing Desk