Saturday, March 2, 2024

OFF THE CUFF: Dry death by 1000 cuts hits farming communities

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Summer safe. It used to be a short phrase everyone in the farming community could relate to.  Fortunate farmers lived in pockets of the country where summer rain rolled through regularly to keep grass growing, crops thriving and water stocks replenished.  We have all read, listened to and watched the man-made climate change debate rage on until many of us can not stomach it any more. 
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But, regardless of whether you are a believer or a sceptic, there can be no argument our country is enduring an exceptionally dry summer. 

Our little pocket of the normally summer safe Rangitikei is parched, brown and as dry as a bone. 

Many areas are in much worse shape and as autumn is now officially with us the time for sitting back and waiting for rain has passed. Action now might be difficult but is a far better option than reaction when the situation becomes worse. 

All rural businesses affected by this dry summer need to have an action plan. 

It might involve selling capital stock to reduce numbers, offloading weaners and lambs at lighter weights and light prices or harvesting crops at lower yields than one might have hoped for. 

But hanging on and hoping should be the one thing every farmer needs to leave out of their plans. 

Because we have been through a number of these increasingly dry summers there are some quality resources available to everyone. One of the best is from Beef + Lamb and is freely available on it website

But I want to focus on the most critical part of getting through an extremely dry summer. 

People are the engine room of the farming community and in times of prolonged stress, such as we are in right now, they need to be the key focus.

We all know the feeling of looking at a 10-day forecast multiple times a day, hoping for the prospect of rain. We all know the sinking feeling when forecast rain does not appear over the horizon. And we all know the feeling of watching big black clouds delivering downpours to our neighbours while we watch on in frustration. None of these feelings is positive and over a prolonged time they have a detrimental effect on even the most positive person. 

It is like enduring a dry death by 1000 cuts with no idea when the agony is going to end.

Stress is a silent killer. 

Everyone reacts differently to stress but there are some tell-tale signs you need to be aware of in both yourself and those around you. 

You might experience a loss of energy, changes in sleeping patterns, anxiousness and irritability about little things, difficulty concentrating and a desire to avoid other people including loved ones and acquaintances. All of these behavioural patterns are indicators of stress and if they go unchecked can lead to greater problems.

The only way to address these issues starts with an honest assessment of exactly how you are feeling. 

And then it is making a conscious decision to do something about it. 

Opening up and discussing worries is a great start because a problem shared is often a problem halved. Listening to your body is also very important. Focus on good food, quality sleep and exercise away from the workplace. And, possibly most importantly, put some fun, laughter and enjoyment in your life daily. 

If you are worried about either yourself or someone you love there are some amazing resources available from people who can provide genuine help. And hearing advice and talking to a person outside the normal group of people you associate with is often a powerful tonic.

We all live in relatively isolated communities and in times such as these we need to look after each other. 

Taking the time to talk to a friend or neighbour you suspect might be struggling might just be the medicine they need to keep going. 

Look around your district as you travel around it and keep an eye out for any warning signs that someone might be in bad shape. Don’t be afraid to either pick up the phone or roll up someone’s driveway even if it is just for a cuppa. It’s these human interactions that have the most powerful positive effects on those in need.

An remember, the time for action is today. 


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