Getting out to the beach, going for a family walk or a day at the lake can do wonders for your mental health, leaving the farm behind just for a few hours, Jessica Lea writes.

To say the season has been a roller-coaster is an understatement, we’ve had crazy weather, staff shortages, a pandemic and inflation soaring. One thing that has been consistent is farmers have kept trucking on.

It is very sobering to see that we are looking at a record payout, that the hard yards should be worth it.

We’ve had our most testing season for Cam and myself. With taking on the neighbouring farm, it has had its challenges, running two sheds, two herds, calving down both farms, finding everything is double the costs and costs have risen.

Hiring staff has been challenging especially when you are looking at mid-season. Our previous manager we employed when we took over next-door had a pre-existing injury that became more detrimental to his health as the season unfolded. This left Cam and me having to do a lot of the work ourselves and relying heavily on casual help. This gave us no time away from the farm as one or both of us were in the sheds.

Fortunately, we were able to hire someone in January making a huge difference and taking some of the stress off. It has been a common thread – staffing issues have been consistent throughout the industry.

Reading posts on social media or talking to other farmers, finding staff has been challenging and a lot of people were also doing everything themselves. We also find when you live in a small town, it can be hard for people new to the area to integrate into the community.

We offer a competitive salary, upskilling and perks with the job, as staff are essential to our business running smoothly. Like the opportunity we have had, we encourage our staff to grow and further themselves in the dairy industry, setting goals and working towards reaching them. Although we are a few hours away from any major city, our area in the Bay of Plenty offers a lot of great off-farm activities. I can attribute taking time off the farm to being able to carry on, especially having three kids in tow.

We ensure the weekends are low maintenance (when we’re not in the midst of calving).

Getting out to the beach, going for a family walk or a day at the lake can do wonders for your mental health, leaving the farm behind just for a few hours. Spending your weekends at home, it’s easy to nip down to do something on the farm and end up home a couple of hours later.

Having employed a new staff member has freed us up to be able to have a bit of down time on the weekends and spend time with the kids. We also encourage our staff to ensure their weekend on is low maintenance, so feeding out is done prior to the weekend and all you have to do is milk and move the cows.

We also go to once-a-day milking as soon as it starts getting dry around Christmas. This takes some pressure off, we find at this time of year we don’t drop a huge amount in production. This also allows us and our staff to enjoy a bit of lifestyle around summer.

Farming can be tough at the best of times, you will have your hard days and it takes its toll especially when there’s always something to be done, but ensuring we have happy staff and taking the time to get off the farm keeps us thriving.