sudden COVID-19 lockdown came, Amanda Bisset had to scramble to rearrange
nearly two weeks’ of face-to-face appointments with dozens of farmers throughout
South Canterbury and North Otago.
is one of LIC’s 80-odd agri managers across New Zealand who annually hit the
road for up to three months to prepare dairy farmers for the new dairy season
ahead, starting on 1 June.
her responsibilities is to advise farmers on new breeding choices, herd
testing, better technology, and latest herd and cow information. There’s a fair
bit to get through.
just 48 hours notice, it’s fair to say that settling-in to a completely new way
of working had been among the most challenging aspects of the 2019 autumn,
all adjusted to the conditions we can’t control, just as farmers tend to do
every season. So I’ve quickly been able to re-schedule things; all farmer
appointments which were lined up needed both another time and a new way of
initial contact is always by phone anyway, so nothing has changed in that
sense. But a lot of my farmers have taken to meeting through Zoom which means
we need a good online connection.”
to a somewhat fuzzy new picture is the beginning of a new school term, which comes
with further complications for Amanda.
teenagers are at home and all have started their school term under the
lockdown,” she says. “They’re all online, and with rural broadband there’s
quite a drain on the internet.
means we all need to manage the demand. We’ve worked it out so part of their
day is scheduled for schoolwork, and where we can, I’m now arranging my famer
appointments around that.”
in the interest of what’s for common good is what COVID-19 is all about, and that’s
merely reflective of what’s an entrenched cooperative spirit in dairying, both
on-farm and at LIC.
farmer feedback about the new arrangements, be they via Zoom or over the phone,
is understanding and largely positive, Amanda says.
“Some farmers have preferred to
discuss their needs by phone, in which case I’ll email the agenda, reports, and
information ahead of time and then we’ll talk it through.
“For those farmers who have taken
to Zoom, it’s been great, we can share screens and it’s really interactive. We
can discuss reports, point to data, and it’s surprisingly engaging. I’ve had
comments from some clients about how efficient it all is, because there’s so
few interruptions and distractions – also the meeting is quicker and I guess
the agenda is tighter.
Meanwhile, Garth Stearn, LIC upper
South Island territory manager, says farmers are responding well to the new
ways of engaging with LIC. Some farmers are used to working in isolation by the
very nature of their farm – albeit with tighter safety measures, he says.
“Agri managers continue to use
well-established team networks to keep connected with each other and share best
practice information. I’m proud of LIC’s agri manager teams and staff, and I
thank farmers for their patience and the way they’ve embraced the COVID-19
response for the good of all New Zealanders.”