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Hyundai Country Calendar


Episode 6: Becca takes over

On the next episode screening 22 March 2014 at 7pm on TV ONE

Becca Takes Over 

Country Calendar trialed aerial drone technology while shooting this episode on a farm near Gisborne.

Hawke's Bay photographer Tim Whittaker used remote controls to guide the Photodrone above farmer Becca Jex-Blake as she mustered a large flock of ewes and lambs. 

Meanwhile, Country Calendar cameraman Richard Williams controlled the high definition camera on board the Photodrone using a video link.

The sheep hardly noticed the drone's presence, but the farm dogs were fascinated with the bird-like machine hovering above them.

That fascination resulted in a near miss when the drone returned to the ground and Becca had to call off her dog Bro, who was only seconds away from marking his territory.

Tim Whittaker says a growing number of New Zealand farmers are using Photodrones to act as digital eyes on their farms.

"A Southland farmer is using a drone to count his stock and in the United States, farmers are using drones to monitor crops for disease. The possibilities are endless." 

The focus of our story is Becca Jex-Blake, a keen young farmer who got her first working dog at nine and has wanted to go farming ever since. She is now managing the family farm. 

She is a committed dog trialer and is getting to grips with the nuances of farming, visiting the historic Matawhero Saleyards where she is gradually learning to buy good stock at the right price.

"I always loved being out on the farm with Dad," says Becca. "He would give me the rough jobs like cleaning out the dog kennels. If I complained, Dad always told me I had to start at the bottom and work my way up."

Her parents, Pete and Sylvia Jex-Blake, farmed for 25 years near the isolated East Coast township of Whangara, the location of the award-winning novel and film Whale Rider. They sold up and moved to town - but not before buying a finishing farm in a sheltered valley near Gisborne.

"The new farm is perfect," says Becca. "It has everything from steep hill country to rolling hills and flats. We are lucky we can toughen our sheep on the hill country and finish them off on the flats."

Her father Pete still helps out when things get busy on the farm and he's the first person Becca turns to when she needs advice.

"Dad used to come out with a list of jobs for me - but now he comes out and I have a huge list for him."

Becca was lucky to have her father around last year when the drought hit the East Coast. A veteran of many severe droughts, Pete guided Becca through the tough months.

"We had to quit stock and Dad showed me the importance of making decisions early and sticking to them. It was great to have his support."





To find out more about Tim Whittaker Photography, visit:

To find out more about sheep-dog trialing, visit:

To find out more about Federated Farmers, visit:


Frank Torley

Richard Williams

Field sound
Don Paulin

Te Rurehe Paki

Colour grader
Alex Wright

Sound mixer
Ian Leslie

Post production manager
Bailey Palmer

Production manager
Robyn Best

Vivienne Jeffs

Network executive
Jude Callen

Associate producer
Dan Henry

Kerryanne Evans

Julian O'Brien