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All creatures great and small

Artist Lisa Grennell and husband Mal moved to rural Glenhope, 80 kilometres south of Nelson, four years ago and promptly started rescuing abandoned and sick farm animals.

We always fostered for the SPCA when we lived in town. We would take the worst cases, but it became more intense when we moved out here. Dogs and cats have got it relatively easy -- there's always someone to look out for them. It’s different for farm animals. Not everyone has the land or is in a position to help.

We get messages from people who know of animals that need rescuing, or I'll spot something on social media, but we’re not actively looking for animals. We concentrate on those that need physical care and attention, animals that are sick or injured. We both have jobs and we breed highland cattle on the farm as well, but we do what we can because we love it.

Our first rescues were these baby goats that had been dumped. Then we got an orphan lamb; his name is Kelvin, he still lives here and he is an absolute spoiled brat. he would come inside, wore nappies and got treated like a baby -- and now he is 80 kilos. He always runs up to us and wants a cuddle, we just adore him.

Then we got bobby calves and that was the first reality check for me. We didn’t realise they had rotavirus and we lost three of them. We were up around the clock; for three nights we tag-teamed tube feeding these babies trying to get them to live. We have one remaining and she just became a mum.

Lisa Grennell with her rescue cows

But that rotavirus contaminated our land. Our highland calves got rotavirus and highlands are very protective mothers, so I'd have to give the calves their medicine and then run! And I had to do it twice a day. That one incident with the bobby calves created two years of extra costs for us.

Right now we have about 20 battery hens we have rescued, three alpacas and seven pigs, including a large white piglet who is now 120 kilos and still growing. She always wants to come inside and the moment she does, she’s on the couch. You hear the couch groaning.

Our latest rescue was three kunekune pigs from Warkworth. They were being shot at by the neighbour because they were wandering onto his lawn. We ferried overnight to Wellington, drove to Taupo and slept in the truck, continued on to Warkworth, popped the three rescue pigs in the back of our ute, and drove straight back to catch the ferry.

Lisa Grennell with her rescue pigs

Now we concentrate on pig rescues because we absolutely love pigs, they are just phenomenal. All of our pigs are house-trained, because they are so food-oriented that training them is a breeze. Easier than a dog.

Because of the rescues, I have had to overcome my house-proud nature. We put plywood on the floor and the house always looks nice and is clean but there is always an animal wandering around. We hatched some baby chickens and they are in the portacot at the moment. Mal will come home from work and there will be a duck in the bath. He’ll open up the hot water cupboard and there will be something in there.

We had a situation where a cow was having trouble calving and, even without experience, I knew that the baby wasn't coming out without help. A local farmer dropped everything and came and helped. If it wasn't for him, that mum and baby wouldn't have survived.

It’s devastating when an animal doesn't make it. I have almost called it quits a couple of times because it is so upsetting. When an animal dies, we bury it and plant a tree or a rose bush on top.

It's been a really interesting learning curve. All these difficult decisions have to be made, because you have to prioritise. I find I have to focus on the good things. You look out the window and there is so much good out there. The pigs always put a smile on my face. We love what we do, it certainly fills our hearts.