Friday, December 8, 2023

Milk and fires, a tricky combo

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A Foxton Beach firefighter successfully combines fighting fires with milking. Samantha Tennent reports. 
Reading Time: 3 minutes


Manawatu farmer and volunteer firefighter Tony Eade had been asleep for only a couple of hours when his pager and cellphone went off. It was midnight and he was being called out to fight a fire.

By the time the brigade put the fire out it was time to head to work. He left the site of the blaze and headed straight off to milk.

Later that afternoon, he was getting ready to milk when the siren went again.

Calls are not always that regular but as a volunteer firefighter he needs to be ready to go at the drop of a hat.

He is fortunate to have a supportive work environment and the backing of employers Grant and Katherine Lovelock, who are the sharemilkers on the 280ha farm milking 650 cows south of Foxton.

Eade is a farm assistant and part of a team of five full time staff and two relief milkers.

“It’s great that I have a flexible boss who knows that sometimes I have to go to a fire call-out at short notice,” Eade says.

“Our team is big enough that we aren’t all milking at the same time. 

“If I get a 3am call-out I can call on another member of the team to take my place. It’s really good to have that support in the workplace. Without it I couldn’t do both jobs.”

He and wife Lucy bought a property at Foxton Beach 10 years ago and not long after shifting into the community he met a local who was involved in the volunteer fire brigade.

It seemed exciting and a great way to get among the new community. He signed up nine years ago.

“It’s the first farm I’ve worked on that has it and it really does make things so much easier. Just type the numbers in and they’re drafted out. It’s so much easier than manually drafting.”

His love of farming hasn’t rubbed off on his children.   

When they were younger the children would go out on the farm with him and helped their grandparents on their block in Santoft. Their boys Callum and Julian have done relief milking but neither is keen on farming as a career choice.

However they do share other interests off farm and he and the boys go trail bike riding at least once a month and he regularly supports Libby on the sportsfield sidelines.

As a family they head down to the beach as often as they can to put the kontiki out, which deploys snapper long lines well offshore without needing a boat or kayak to take it out.

“It’s a relaxing way to fish and one of the great things about living at the beach. It’s right on our doorstep.”

Spending time with family is important to getting that work-life balance and he counts himself lucky the children still live at home.

“It’s nice to have them around because I know one day they will have families and homes of their own.”

He has a philosophy not to say no to opportunities as they come along but for now he’s very happy with the work-life balance he has with his family.  

His gets every second weekend off but even on the weekends he does work the team is doing only the essentials. Often he can be at home with the family for a few hours between milkings.

“It’s good to be able to come home and get stuff done.”

He hopes he and Lucy will do some travel one day, see the world, but for now he’s quite content with life.


Owners: Wilf and Erin Vickers

Sharemilkers:  Grant and Katherine Lovelock

Farm assistant: Tony Eade

Location: Foxton, Manawatu

Farm Size: 280ha 

Cows: 650 Friesian

Production: 2017-2018 297,000kg MS

Target: 2018-19 310,000kg MS

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