Finances, workload stress farmers
Families urged to seek help early
Research on 1000 dairy farmers nationwide reveals the top causes of stress for dairy farmers are finances, workload, relationships and health.
AgResearch research leader, senior social scientist Neels Botha, said the most important message was that farmers and their families should seek help for stress before issues became crises.
Dr Botha said the four leading causes of dairy farmer stress were not ranked in any particular order, because all were equally valid and deserved attention.
‘‘With finances, farmers with high debt levels and other financial pressures can experience high levels of stress.
‘‘For some farmers this can become chronic stress, where they worry about their finances all the time, " Dr Botha said.
‘‘Stress from workload relates to the sheer amount of work people have to do on farms.
‘‘This is particularly the case with calving, when there is so much on and farmers can’t do ongoing duties while they tend to cows calving,’’ he said.
In relationships farmers could experience difficulties with farm staff and in farm management, Dr Botha said, with this stress at times filtering into personal relationships.
‘‘Problems can arise with farms that were once small but have now had to bring in outsiders, as farm sizes get bigger and farmers get older,’’ Dr Botha said.
Health issues causing stress for dairy farmers related either to their own health or the health of their family members.
‘‘With farmers getting older in New Zealand age-related conditions can present challenges while doing physical farming work. And a lot of farmers have older parents to care for, which can cause stress. ‘‘This all ties up with workload and not having time to do what you need to do.’’
The research has been carried out over the past three years and will continue for at least another four years.
The work is part of a Dairy Farmer Wellness and Wellbeing Project, co-funded by DairyNZ and the Government’s Primary Growth Partnership.
Dr Botha said the research was designed to build a picture of what was happening so better support networks and resources could be developed to help farmers before they ‘‘hit the wall’’.