The co-ordinator of Northland's Rural Support Trust is urging the region's dairy farmers to reduce to once-a-day milking and plan for time off over the summer holidays to prevent burnout and stress later on in the year.

Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said those working in agriculture could often resist taking time off as, unlike many other business models, they can't just "close the door and leave".

Ms Jonker said that while most farmers took their large break later in the year, once cows were dried off, they still needed to plan for days, or half days, away from the farm as many had been working hard since calving earlier in the year.

"Just getting off of the farm for a day can be beneficial.


"Reducing to once-a-day can also reduce stress. Many farmers want to continue milking twice-a-day, but when you factor in the reduction in costs to labour and equipment, as well as the reduction of stress on people and the animals, you are better off milking once-a-day."

She said hiring relief milkers, or asking family members, to step in and take over can allow farmers a well-deserved rest.

"You might need to plan for water supply to stock, perhaps repairs and services to water pumps, but then also plan a break. You are the most important asset on the farm," said the Waipu-based co-ordinator.

She said refusing to take time off could result in health and safety risks, as tired farmers were more likely to make basic errors of judgment.

"If you don't take time off, you're also less likely to be able to cope with stress later in the year. You need to rest for your physical and mental health."

She said those with autumn calving would be jumping into work after the holidays, while any dry spells in February and March would mean more physical work with supplement feeding. "So far, it looks like we will get rain so hopefully, that won't be an issue.

But January also offered a prime time to spend time with family and friends.

"This is also the time of year that your children are off school - why not enjoy time with them. Everyone will benefit from that," she said.


Ms Jonker said there were five ways to wellness for those living and working the rural life.

"Connect - with people around you, and your community. Reaching out helps.

"Give - your time, your presence and your words. Take notice - of the simple things that give you joy. Keep learning - embrace new experiences, see opportunities and surprise yourself. And finally, be active."

To talk to Northland Rural Support Trust, call 0800 787 254 - You are the most important asset on the farm.