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Farmers urged to focus on mental wellbeing

Sheep in a dry paddock revised

The Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group is encouraging farmers to look out for each other as it will be challenging and stressful to farm through the winter and the continuing dry conditions.

The region has received some welcome rain this week, however Hawke’s Bay Regional Council monitoring shows as June approaches, southern Hawke’s Bay has only received 50% of average May rainfall. Soil moisture levels at Bridge Pa, Crownthorpe, and Ongaonga are well below median levels for this time of year.

RAG chair Lochie MacGillivray says they conducted a survey of 30 farmers recently who are confident they can manage through the winter and have good mental health.

“It was good to hear that our farming families are feeling like they are in a good position. However none of those surveyed had a formal feed budget, and we still have concerns about farming operations, and farmers wellbeing if we have a particularly cold winter, or a snow storm.

“We really encourage our farming families look out for each other, and to check in with friends who may be struggling.

“We also encourage farmers to come up with a formal feed plan, factoring in a ‘what if’ scenario," says Mr MacGillivray.

A free feed planning service is open to all livestock owners, from lifestyle blocks to the largest stations, and this service can be accessed by phoning 0800 BEEF LAMB (0800 233 352) or 0800 4 Dairy NZ (0800 432 479 69)

Sarah Donaldson, a clinical psychologist who specialises in rural wellbeing, says the dry conditions, and constant feeding out through winter can create physical and emotional fatigue for farmers.

“Farmers need to be mindful of fitting in recovery time to prevent burn out. The biggest thing is awareness, of when you are in busy times and how that can take it’s toll.

“Look out for your friends and neighbours, and reach out to those who you think may be under more pressure as they may not put their hand up.”

To check in with someone who you think is struggling, initiate an everyday conversation,  talk about the extra demands, and then you can ask an open question such as ‘how are you feeling about the winter ahead?’, she says.

Reassure them it's better to share how they are feeling and it’s normal for the body and brain to show signs of stress, she says.

Getting off the farm, spending time with people, and exercising is a big help for farmers, especially if they are physically removed from the potential triggers that they see all around the farm.

 Notes to editors:

For general advice about farming in dry conditions go to #drought

Call 0800 787 254 to speak with a representative from the East Coast Rural Support Trust

If you need further support, don’t hesitate to call or text 1737, at any time 24/7 to speak with a trained counsellor.

1 June 2021

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