Long days, running around like headless chickens and constantly chasing our tails are all expressions that have relevance for the spring and early summer months of many a spring calving dairy farmer. A characteristic of this system is that you are generally busy from the start of calving until the bulls go into the herd.
Mating can be a busier time than calving, as it requires a highly diligent farmer for good heat detection. The day can just disappear when you're mating the heifers to AI, and after that comes the first cut silage. So unless your farm is well staffed or has a good relief, it is likely that you have had little time off.
Father's Day, last Sunday, should have been a very timely event, especially if your silage was cut and covered, and your bulls have gone in with the cows. It's a good excuse to take a day off and for dads to spend time with the wife and children. If you had the chance to put your feet up this weekend, take the time to spare a thought to your unsung heroes that carried you through this busy time. For your children, siblings, partner or parents that assisted you on the farm, for example, with calf rearing.
For whoever helped you feed up to a dozen silage men for breakfast, dinner and supper. For the person that provided a constant supply of clean clothes and good food to keep from looking neglected, for keeping your children out of your hair, entertained or ferried from one event to another, or for providing another off-farm income that eased the challenge of a seasonal cash flow. In reality Mother's Day probably came far too soon and didn't get the attention it deserved.
Remember, your work-life balance is determined by a series of your own decisions and choices. While it's acceptable to have sustained periods of a high work-load, if this continues throughout the farming year with no let-up, getting burnt out, either physically or mentally, is a big risk to your business.
Quieter times in the farming calendar such as now should be capitalised on and are great for having some time off, taking time to review your financial position and for strategic planning of your business's future direction.
Time off can be associated with a feeling of guilt for many farmers when they are not working. Remember both yourself and others have worked hard to get to this point in time, so make sure that everyone gets some time out and gets off the farm to relax in the coming months. Also take the chance to express your appreciation for the help that you have received. As the May milk cheque arrives, you may now feel a huge relief or comfort in terms of your business cash flow. However, it's important to get your book-keeping up to date and determine your farm expenses, as time is running short to have any major control of these. If you are giving consideration to your farm's future, then it is important that planning encompasses your partner or wife's goals and ambitions as well as your own.
Give some thought and attention to your present situation and systems used in terms of your time management -- especially when a wife makes calls for a farmer to address their work-life balance.
Farming is generally a family business, so realise that every decision you make with regard to time off, financial management and strategic planning will have an impact on your family. Consider their implications and whether they will be positive or negative. Few of you farm in complete isolation, so give a little thought to those who help you achieve what you do.
Mary Kinston is a farm consultant based in Kerry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org