If you’re having trouble, you’re not the only one – I was there and here’s what you can do
With the busiest time of the year dairy farming, it’s more important than ever to take care of our mental health.
Good well-being often means eating well, taking time off, making time for family and friends, focusing on the day, and getting enough sleep.
Sleep will be in short supply, but the most important thing is not to push yourself beyond your limits.
If you feel like you’re banging against a wall from exhaustion, ask a friend, neighbor, or student to spend the night cow-watching so you can get an uninterrupted night’s rest and get back to work.
It is encouraging that there seems to be a growing openness to mental health issues in agriculture and in rural communities in general, where in the past the issue has rarely been discussed or acknowledged.
When I gave a lecture on mental wellbeing for the Drinagh Co-op at the last Spring Dairy Seminar in West Cork – where the farming community has endured a number of tragedies in recent years – the room was packed.
I spoke about my own personal experience with mental health and how I’d learned that the most important thing is to be honest with myself about how I’m feeling and to talk to my wife when I’m feeling challenged.
I’ve learned to laugh every day and cry when I have to – it’s a release of emotions.
I’ve talked about how we need to focus on our physical and mental capabilities to help us through the busy spring schedule.
I explained that farmers are in a way like top athletes.
The audience understood why a rugby player can’t play a Six Nations series 12 months a year – it’s all about building up for the high season, focusing on the game at hand and also allowing in recovery time when it’s all over.
I asked who they consider teammates on their farm. Various farmers suggested veterinarians, feed nutritionists, agricultural consultants, accountants, milk quality consultants, neighbors, family.
Things will go wrong on the farm – calves get sick or die, feed may be scarce, somatic cell counts or TB can cause problems – but sharing the problem with a teammate will lead to a solution.
Every dairy processor now has a confidential support number if needed.
Farming faces many challenges, but if you provide farmers with simple tools to take care of themselves, they will be in a stronger position in times of crisis.
Speaking and listening can make a world of difference when it comes to mental health.
So much time is spent discussing sustainable agriculture, but the most important part can be overlooked: the future viability of the farmer.
Some might say that mental wellbeing is a different conversation than climate change. But global weather events have a huge impact on farmer stress levels; Droughts, floods and severe frosts can have a huge financial impact on farms.
Increased regulations, changes in farming practices and additional paperwork are increasing the pressure on farmers.
I firmly believe that every sustainability program, every agricultural climate action plan, every sustainability farmwalk, and every agricultural climate change document should include some farmer mental wellbeing education.
Ultimately, the farmer must implement all of these changes on the farm and reduce emissions. If this farmer is in a positive mood and takes care of his mental well-being, then he will be much more productive.
Businesses around the world understand this, which is why they have specific programs in place to prioritize employee well-being – leading to a more efficient business.
Politicians and politicians seem to have forgotten this. Whether in power, in opposition, urban or rural, all politicians must ensure that farmer welfare is high on the agenda.
As we fight to save the world from global warming, if we do so at the expense of farmer lives, we will have failed as a society.
The fact that Drinagh Coop is celebrating its centenary is also something to think about. The local economy has benefited greatly from what the cooperative has achieved over 100 years by helping farmers market and sell their milk: rural jobs and products that are now exported all over the world.
Farms and dairy herds were very different when Drinagh was born. A lot of expansion has taken place, but each time farmers have expanded, it has only been to generate a viable income.
Across rural Ireland, the dairy industry has developed into an important part of the country’s economy, employing almost 65,000 people directly and indirectly; €9 billion in exports and the sector is worth €16 billion to the economy.
The founders of Irish Cooperatives would be very proud to see the dairy industry develop into a major player in the world market.
But they would also be extremely frustrated at how some opponents of livestock would portray the dairy industry as the bad boy in Ireland. Irish dairy has grown not only in 2015 but for over a century, weathering many recessions, evolving as research and technology advances and is undoubtedly the most resilient part of our economy.
Our TDs must ensure we prioritize farmer resilience and protect the heart of rural Ireland, which as a community is being challenged more than ever.
If we stand together, we stand a better chance of achieving that 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.
Peter Hynes farms with his wife Paula in Aherla, Co Cork
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/if-youre-struggling-youre-not-the-only-one-ive-been-there-and-heres-what-you-can-do-42325809.html If you’re having trouble, you’re not the only one – I was there and here’s what you can do