10 June 2020

Tips for surviving and thriving this spring

Winter may have just begun but most farmers are already looking ahead to the next season, and the one beyond that.

Top of mind is calving with around four million calves born each year across New Zealand farms. Also high on many farmers’ mind will be feed after months of drought for several regions including the Waikato.

If farmers are worried about how their farm is positioned feed-wise for winter and the coming spring, then it’s time to seek professional help. Having a plan in place can lift the burden and help farmers clearly navigate the next few months and challenges on farm.

Another important focus area is staff. After COVID-19 many of us are out of our usual routines but the business of farming keeps going regardless of pandemics given most farmers self-isolate most days.

Where possible, try to keep to your daily routine. This helps keep you and staff efficient and focused on the tasks at hand. If you and staff know the processes of each task each day, this will lift efficiency and generate more time for planning ahead. If you have staff, make sure you delegate out jobs wherever possible. If a job can be done by a single person, and they do that each day in the same routine, efficiencies are created. It also frees farmers up to address big picture needs.

The pandemic has bought with it increased anxiety for many people so do a check-in with your staff once a week, and ask how they are doing. Are they struggling with anything? Do they need any support or can they think of a better way to complete any tasks on farm. Asking them for ideas builds teamwork and keeps people motivated and engaged.

Be mindful too that your staff may have personal concerns on their mind which could impact productivity. A job done 90% right by someone other than you is good enough!

Keep a watch too on time sheets. Are staffs hours staying within their parameters? Adjust rosters if people need a break, or hours are drifting off-course. And if you can, stock the cowshed office with muesli bars or fruit to keep everyone going in busy periods. One farm I know pulls out a deep frozen Christmas cake for calving for the staff office. Maybe you’ll find something similar to share or dust off your slow cooker for meals. It’s a great way to make meals in advance that can last for two days or think about freezing some food for the coming few weeks.

Before it gets really busy, pre-book relief staff to allow for some weekends off for staff especially as we move into level one. And make time for you and your family to also have some down-time and get off farm - or connect up with others for a re-set break. Taking your mind off the farm for even one hour for family or friends helps immensely. If things are starting to get serious, and you’re struggling or not sleeping, reach out to your Rural Support Trust or other support networks. There are plenty of people willing to support you when the going gets tough and help you get through winter and the seasons beyond with a healthy mind and farm.

Darren Sutton 

LIC FarmWise consultant, Waikato