A conversation we need to have

Jul 02, 2018


Farmers are admired for the way they reach out and help neighbours and friends in time of need. However, they are also renowned for keeping their problems to themselves.

Despite farming being a good industry to be in, we are all familiar with the challenges of farm life.It can be tough at times. Financial pressure. Overwork. Isolation. And it is a tragic reality that this takes both a physical and mental toll on the health of individual farmers.

 A report by the National Centre for Farmer Health found that rural populations have an elevated risk of suicide, with a 66 per cent higher risk of death than those in metropolitan areas.

Stress and depression can have tragic consequences and while there is no difference in the prevalence of mental illness between city and regions, those in the country remain at a distinct disadvantage to our city cousins.

It is harder to find help in regional, rural or remote areas. Poor access to services and professionals, cost, and continued reluctance to seek help all contribute to more pronounced mental illness consequences in rural communities, including a suicide rate almost double what it is in the cities, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

A report by mental health charity Sane Australia also found that access to medical assistance in the bush is compromised, owing to around 50 per cent less money being spent on mental health services in rural and remote Australia.

Add to this travel times required to reach medical services and the stigma around mental illness still felt in many smaller communities and the issue becomes a real problem.

It is a problem that extends beyond the Australian outback. We can look to the United States to see that our farmers are not alone in battling depression and other mental health issues.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compiled a breakdown of suicide rates by profession, and farmers have the highest rates of suicide by more than 30 percent. This study found almost identical factors contributing to depression amongst primary producers, including social isolation, financial strain, and barriers to seeking mental health services.

The statistics are clear considering the Australian dairy industry is in a period of recovery after two challenging seasons and cash flow for many farmers remains under pressure, while the global dairy industry continues to suffer a downturn. There are reports from the States that dairy farms are disappearing due to the downturn and many farmers, while incredibly resilient, are now at poverty level.

We tend to acknowledge the strengths and the virtues of the dairy industry, such as improved prospects in a global market, but we must also pay attention to the many farmers continue to suffer significant financial pressure.

We understand some farmers are suffering emotionally and physically because they simply do not have the resources to get by. We are aware of families suffering because the farm must come first, and the farm is struggling.

There are of course understandable sensitives around pride and privacy and the silence can be deafening.

This could be because key individuals and organisations do not realise this situation exists, or because farmers are trying to project a positive but unrealistic image of our industry.

There is little point in talking about where we will be in two years’ time if we can’t get through the present.

Some of the consequences of this silence include farmers feeling isolated or not realising they could seek help, farming families suffering short and long-term damage as they try to cope, pressure on paying bills, impact on children’s education and farmers departing the industry.

This is a conversation we need to have. And we need to take care that we are not blaming farmers for poor business skills, or some other perceived ‘lack’.

We must find ways to talk about it, so we can create positive opportunities for farmers to help themselves and for others to help them. We must aim to take away the stigma associated with financial stress. We’re all in this together.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, call:

 

Farm Life - Animal Health and Welfare

May 26, 2017

Farm animal welfare is a significant issue in Australia and overseas, and consumers are increasingly interested in knowing that a high standard of animal welfare is maintained throughout the supply chain of products they purchase.

Healthy and well cared for cows are a priority for every dairy farmer as it is central to having a successful and sustainable dairy farm.

There are many on-farm practices that have been part of dairy farming for hundreds of years and we must ensure we have a social license from consumers to continue the practices. We recognise that some things that happen on-farm can be confronting to people who are not farmers and may not understand the reason behind them. It is up to us to ensure the public understand what we do, why we do it and that at the core of every farmer is the health and wellbeing of their animals.

As an industry, we take our responsibilities for animal welfare seriously and are committed to continuous improvement of our animal husbandry practices. All farm animals must be treated with care.

We want our consumers to know farmers, processors, transporters and meat processors actively engage with each other to ensure all cows and calves are treated humanely.

The Australian dairy industry supports the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle as well as the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines. These were developed in partnership with the animal welfare groups and Government, and provide the industry with a clear vision that the welfare of all animals in Australia is promoted and protected by the adoption of sound animal welfare standards and practices.

We are continuously working to improve animal welfare standards to ensure we meet consumer and public expectations and expect all persons managing livestock abide by these standards to ensure best practice is observed on-farm.

It is a priority of the dairy industry to regularly review policies and practices in line with public perceptions and to invest in ongoing national training and education to ensure farmers constantly strive to go above and beyond the agreed standard.

ADF, in collaboration with Dairy Australia, and other industry partners continue to work with industry, Government and animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the wellbeing of our herds in all farming systems.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

ADHIS Update: 2016 Feeding the Genes results

Jun 13, 2016

 

 

 

The 2016 Feeding the Genes study, conducted by Dr John Morton, for ADHIS, investigated interactions between sire genetics and feeding systems on: 

  • milk solids production;
  • and the cow’s chance of lasting in the herd.

The milk production results were clear. The study found that in all feeding systems, the daughters of high index (BPI, HWI or TWI) sires produce more milk solids than daughters of low index sires. 

In terms of survival, the daughters of high index (BPI, HWI and TWI) sires last longer than daughters of low index sires in all pasture-based feeding systems. The scale of effects of sire index vary by index and feeding system:

The HWI has larger effects on longevity than BPI or TWI.

In low bail feeding systems the daughters of high BPI and HWI sires last longer than daughters of low index sires.

In moderate to high bail feeding, partial mixed ration (PMR) and hybrid feeding systems, the daughters of high index (BPI, HWI and TWI) sires last longer.

In total mixed ration (TMR) systems the daughters of high HWI sires last longer.

The findings support the take-home message that herd managers should select high index sires whose ABVs are aligned with the breeding objectives for their herd, regardless of their feeding system.

Read more about the results of this exciting research in this factsheet or contact Michelle Axford on 0427 573 330 or maxford@adhis.com.au for more information.

ADHIS Update: Dairy cow fertility trends improve

Apr 04, 2016

 

After 20 years of declining dairy cow fertility, the genetic trend has turned around and improved every year since 2011. It is now about 5% higher than cows born in 2011, and similar to cows born in 1996.

 

This finding and others are reported in the latest Herd Improvement Report, published recently by the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) and the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (NHIA).

Michelle Axford from ADHIS said this was an example of the gains that can be made through increased emphasis of fertility in Australian selection indices, particularly in the Balanced Performance Index (BPI) and Health Weighted Index (HWI).
 
“We can expect further gains as the focus on fertility in the indices has increased further in the past couple of years,” she said.
 
“We are now seeing the direct benefits on farm. Cows with higher daughter fertility ABVs get back in calf sooner – that is they have higher 6-week in calf rates.”
 
Michelle said the simplest way to improve the genetics of herds for fertility was to choose bulls from the Good Bulls Guide or app with a high Daughter Fertility ABV (>104). She said recent research had given dairy farmers more choice for bulls with better fertility ABVs and more confidence in those bulls.
 
“The reliability of the Daughter Fertility ABV has improved significantly and there are more bulls with much higher Daughter Fertility ABVs to choose from. This is the outcome of collaborative work between ADHIS and the Dairy Futures CRC,” she said.
 
To find out more about the changing dynamics of Australian dairy herds, download the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Report 2015 from www.adhis.com.au. For more information contact Michelle Axford at ADHIS, ph (03) 8621 4240 or maxford@adhis.com.au.




 

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