Time to reassess your farm and take care of yourself

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

The cows are dry, so it’s time for farmers to reassess everything – where they’re at in terms of their farming operation, budgets, and goals moving forward – with clear heads.

But they should be looking at their own health at this time of year – go to the doctor and get an annual check-up.

Farmers are known for looking after their animals’ welfare but they should be looking after their own welfare too; and while the cows are away at graziers there’s a bit of free time to sort this out.

As males we often don’t go for check-ups and instead wait for things to happen; then it’s too late. So pre-empt it. Now is when you have time to get blood tests, scans, ultrasounds etc.

Farmers should look at their fitness too. Farmers do work a lot of hours but that doesn’t mean they are all fit. For example, milking cows is not always strenuous until calving, then holy cow!


It doesn’t take long to get unfit. And if you’re unfit, you’re potentially not as healthy as you need to be. Then you go into a strenuous stretch of work like calving and you’re not ready for it and it can take its toll. So get a health check-up and put a focus on fitness – now!

You could join a gym, go mountain-biking, or walk the roadsides. It might seem a bit strange at first but once you get into it, it can be enjoyable. You can meet neighbours, make new friends, and get to new places. This gets you off-farm, which can help with depression too. There’s much reporting on mental illness; generally farmers are more likely to commit suicide than those living in cities. Exercise and general health is one way of combatting those statistics.

Fonterra has announced an opening forecast price to its farmers of $7 per kgMS for the 2018-2019 season, and increased its 2017-2018 forecast farmgate price by 20 cents to $6.75 per kgMS. Fieldays are around the corner – so if you’re heading to Mystery Creek ensure you do your homework before buying.

I’ve talked before about farmers needing to weigh up whether it is worth buying machinery that’s only used once or twice a year – and sits in the shed depreciating for the other 10-11 months with capital invested, depreciation and replacement inflation on top of that. You could be investing a lot of capital just for convenience. So just think twice about it. Do you really need it? Should you talk to your accountant or farm advisor first? Could you spend the money on something else – a bit of technology or advanced technology – that could help you make your own job quicker or more efficient? Or something to make things easier on staff? Because it’s not just about the farmer, it’s about their team as well. So be careful where you spend money but certainly look at technology.

Looking forward, farmers can also think about their environmental work on-farm. Farmers need to keep their mind on this – because if they’re ahead of the eight-ball before town-people bring issues to their attention they can respond by saying they’re already working on addressing that concern. This just takes the heat out of it. So you’re not on the back foot.

Look at ways you can put things in place on-farm in terms of reaching environmental goals. Can you plant trees around waterways, swampland, streams or wetlands? For rodent control look at some decent trapping systems – as cold wet winters bring the rats back. I’ve heard rats and mice had a good breeding season with weather being so mild. So bait up, get resettable traps and look closely at where you need to locate them.

Nitrate warning

Nitrates will be an issue now too. Because we’ve had some quick growing grass and reasonably mild conditions our growing rates are fairly high, and now our nitrate levels are really high.

So cows need to be fed with caution, to prevent nitrate poisoning, by feeding stock grass along with dry feed like hay, straw or silage, and checking them regularly. Farmers or graziers should check new pastures before they run cows on. If nitrate levels are getting high put them on the grass for a few hours and take them off again; or feed them dry feed with the grass.

Nitrate poisoning symptoms to look out for are cows out on their own, sitting down early in the day, or staggering like milk fever when they get up – call a vet straight away and get them off the grass. Then get some dry feed into them asap. We still have a reasonable supply of dry feeds and silage available. Feel free to give us a call.


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