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The red traffic light system may still mean "business as usual" in many ways for farmers but they should remain vigilant regarding the Omicron variant, DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says.
"The incredibly infectious characteristics of [Omicron] mean that we've really got to be on our toes," Mackle told The Country Sport Breakfast's Brian Kelly.
"The fact that it's so transmissible is the key issue here - and the impact that could have on farm teams."
Dairy farming doesn't stop ("cows have to be milked every day") so steps needed to be in place to look after the business, as well as the people, on-farm, Mackle said.
The first step was to have a plan already in place in case someone on-farm ended up with any variant of Covid-19.
DairyNZ had a template for this on its website, which was a good place to start, Mackle said.
The next step was for farmers to have a conversation with their teams so everyone was on the same page.
"Talk about what the goal is, what you're trying to achieve for the business, in terms of looking after the people and anyone they might have at home and what steps they have to take as a business to mitigate and reduce the risk of infection."
It was also important to remember that restrictions could change, as the Government worked out how to tackle each new variant, Mackle said.
"I don't know for sure but I suspect the Government will change the rules over time around the stand-down period."
There have been reports and suggestions the self-isolation period may extend to 24 days, which was a "pretty high hurdle" for any business, Mackle said.
"They are what they are at the moment and I think you just have to plan for that."
If someone did contract Covid-19 the decision as to whether they could stay on-farm would ultimately be up to a medical health officer from the local DHB, Mackle said.
It was also important to make sure the milk processor was notified if anyone on-farm tested positive for Covid, so they could put precautions in place for their tanker drivers, Mackle said.
Ultimately, it was vital to keep the lines of communication open.
"If farmers do have issues with staff becoming infected with Omicron – tell your dairy company - get hold of us, get hold of Fed Farmers. There's a network there that can rally and help.
"That's my advice to everybody. Do some thinking and do some talking about it."
- DairyNZ has more information, templates and checklists on its website to help farmers develop a Covid-19 plan. Find out more here.