Cow Cockies and COVID-19
Sam Owen, Dairy Operation Manager, Matamata-Piako. Waikato
Keeping good mental health in spring is critical, sleep, nutrition and communication are three biggies to help limit stress. Big decisions are made each hour most of the time whilst covered in mud or whilst chewing down some well earned food. During Covid lockdown stress can be exaggerated. Staff and personal safety should be paramount. Work bubbles, hygiene and good communication lines should be already established and reviewed. Making sure staff are aware of the risks and the consequences around Covid in the workplace and the policies put in place to limit the risk and or spread if the worst was to happen is key. Planning for the worst seems all doom and gloom, but as in other major farm events it's better now than when the worst has arrived and Covid is in the workplace.
- Things such as asking staff to get vaccinated. Offering to pay for their hours away from work whilst they do so.
- Can the existing staff already on the farm cover each other's roles if need be? If not, what training is required whilst still keeping a safe bubble needs to be looked into .
- What provisions are in place for a deep clean if needed.
- If you're on a smaller farm or sole charge, perhaps talking to a neighbour or relief milker to see if at a bare minimum animals will be fed and milked.
- Putting plans in place to milk OAD or 3 in 2 to help lessen workload for you or any relief staff.
- Updating farm procedures so it is easier for someone to take over if the worst should happen.
- Keeping in regular contact with farm owners and consultants.
During this time it may be easy to just ask staff to work lower hours and limit time off as there's not much on offer outside the farm gate anyway. But keeping a regular routine as much as possible can lessen the insecurities. Regular meal times, start and finish times and rosters can offer stability and assurances at a volatile time.
Keeping a regular schedule as much as possible can ease mental anxiety. When family dynamics change like children and partners are at home 24/7, life at home can change and be reflected in the workplace, it may even be that allowances are made for children on farms or time allowances made to help with children's study. Having regular farm meetings via the dreaded Zoom call or Facetime is a good way to gauge how people may be coping. Maybe even a social call after work drinks or a quiz to help with socialising amongst the team.
As dairy farmers we are deemed essential workers. So we need to be doing the essentials each day and week. If that is achieved we've done what was needed, do not berate or belittle the effort you put in. Just because we are still allowed to operate our businesses doesn't make us anymore immune to the stresses of a Covid lockdown. If you get finished early or need a bit of time out, take it. Ring a mate and have a yarn, watch a movie, read a book and play a bit of backyard cricket with the kids.
See the links below for additional information, templates and a checklist
DairyNZ BCP The business continuity plan templates can help you plan ahead for any unforeseen disruptions, whether that is as serious as COVID-19 cases on farm, milk contamination or even just a power cut. These will be useful for a medical officer to view, and will give confidence regarding the processes you have in place to protect the people in your workplace.
Covid Checklist for Farmers