What can you do for your farm and for others?

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While we are sick of the use of the word now, we are certainly living in unprecedented times.

The rapidly changing environment brought about by the spread of Covid-19 has presented many challenges around the world.

It has also brought about many challenges for farmers at a time of the year when meat processors are in full swing, compounded by drier-than-average climatic conditions where stock feed is in short supply.

Getting space for animals is a hotly contested and sometimes impossible task.

This means it’s a waiting game, and farmers having to come up with plans B, C and D to ensure stock are fed.

As critical farming partners in our businesses, we need to make sure that when all these pressures are on, we are seeking support and help.

Reduced processing capacity at the works means you may be carrying more stock into the winter than planned. This will also mean a reduced cashflow.

Keep on top of your financial budget, adjusting it as it happens. Talk to your banker and accountant as soon as you notice issues so plans can be put in place.

If you haven’t already started a feed budget for winter, the time to start is now. Beef + Lamb has easy-to-use resources available on its website.

Financial pressures combined with feed shortages can make for really tough times and can leave us feeling overwhelmed. If you need any assistance, guidance or even a listening ear, please don’t hesitate to contact the Rural Support Trust for free and confidential support on 0800 787-254.

As New Zealand farmers we are in an incredibly privileged position. To be deemed an essential business and being able to trade makes us fortunate.

However, I also believe it is loaded with responsibility.

Over the past few years, we have all felt the pressures of being blamed for environmental degradation.

I’m sure many of you have felt the pride in what you do lessen.

Suddenly the spotlight has moved. We’ve been deemed essential and we know that right now we really are the backbone of our nation’s economy.

There is a lot of talk in the industry right now as this being a time of potential. The feeling of pride is returning, and I believe it’s up to us how long it lasts.

I believe there’s potential for us to show the New Zealand public that we do care about our environment and we’re prepared to make changes even if they’re not being enforced on us.

We cannot afford to rest on our laurels while the pressure is off.

The spotlight will return, and we need to be prepared. Make sure you use this time wisely.

Ensure your winter-feeding practices are sound. Plan how you will graze crops the right way, protect critical source areas and limit disruption to the soil.

If you have one of North Otago Sustainable Land Management’s (Noslam) environmental folders, have a look through it and challenge yourself and your family to add to it. There are some fabulous resources on the Noslam website: noslam.nz.

Start ticking off the actions you’ve listed in your land and environment plans. Most of these can be done as a family – use the time you would’ve otherwise spent running to various sports and activities wisely.

If you haven’t completed a land and environment plan yet, have a go. There are resources available to help you at beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub.

Most importantly, share with others what you are doing. Take the photos and tell the good-news stories. Our urban friends need to know that we do have the best intentions and are working hard to protect our environment.

Our urban friends are not as lucky as Covid-19 takes its toll.

Many of their businesses are not able to trade and are in incredibly vulnerable positions.

Their families do not have the luxury of wide-open spaces during lockdown, nor the ability to earn a living.

Among all this there is another opportunity for us: this is to live and breathe empathy.

Think about how others feel, what you can do for them, and act on it. It will not only build bridges, it will forge relationships and a long-lasting respect.

I challenge you to take some time and think about what you can control. Think about what you can put in place for your farming business, your farming environment and what you can do for others.

  • Jo Hay is a co-founder of Lip Gloss and Gumboots, a regional hub of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust.