Anne-Marie Wells wonders if farmers should reframe themselves as #1 cow in their herd – and look after themselves accordingly.

I always feel a sense of lethargy once we have dried off the cows and completed all the compliance reporting. The push to finish the season well often feels more challenging than calving – there are so many areas to get right to set up successfully for the season ahead. And despite best efforts throughout the season to make compliance reporting easy, it still takes a while to be sure what we are submitting is correct.

As I read June’s milking platform articles, it struck me just how different a season can be between farming operations.

We are fortunate enough to have had a great season here on the Taieri, everything seemed to align – the weather, the milk price, cow condition.

We have had our challenges, but they have been ones within our control, and we are feeling optimistic as we head into the new season.

With SIDE being in Oamaru this year, it was a good chance for Duncan to get a couple of days off farm and he enjoyed hearing about the latest theories and innovations.

While we might not all be ready to invest in these recent technologies, events such as SIDE mean we are able to share in knowledge that is being drawn from them.

We are particularly interested in cow collars at the moment, which was the focus of one of the workshops. As well as finding out more about collars, the workshop also shared what is being learnt from them – such as data from collars are pointing towards the optimum rumination time between calving and moving to twice a day milking. Unlike other industries, this information is not kept secret to help one farm perform better than another, it is shared so that everyone can benefit.

One thing I do find a shame though, is how the number of rural professionals at these events seems to outweigh the number of farmers. By paying levies, fees, and commission, we fund other people to go, yet struggle to get there ourselves.

As well as taking time off the farm, by the time we have paid for a ticket, accommodation, and transport, it adds up – and this all comes out of our farm expenses. There is an argument that each year our budget should include money set aside for education, but that is easier said than done.

We can justify spending time and money on our cows or infrastructure, but when it comes to ourselves, it is not always as easy.

This point rang true in the Thursday morning SIDE keynote session from Dr Tom Mulholland. Farmers know their cow, production, and environment numbers, yet are not aware of their own health numbers, such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

As we head into the new season, I wonder if it is time for farmers to think of themselves as the number 1 cow in their herd and do all that they can to keep that number 1 cow fit, healthy and productive.