It’s time to balance yesterday’s post about the five upsides of being a dairy farmer with the three big downsides. I’m not whingeing – I have consciously chosen to be a dairy farmer – but nor am I going to beat about the bush because the issues are too serious to sweep under the carpet.
Dairy farmers are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. When I was a teen, it was far easier as the terms of trade chart below shows.
Basically, our standard of living has been cut by a third since the 1980s despite skyrocketing productivity.
Dairy cows are milked twice a day, seven days per week, and if you can’t afford to employ people, you need to work seven days per week, too. You start before dawn and generally finish after sunset.
Unless you have the money to pay someone to look after the farm, you also miss out on holidays.
A dangerous place to work
The many tasks and unpredictability of animals make farms among Australia’s most hazardous workplaces. Because they are also homes, farm injuries and deaths tragically include children. If you don’t have enough money to pay for assistance, again, you’re more likely to attempt jobs that should be left to skilled people with the right gear.
Aside from the risk of physical injury, the stress of farming with low incomes and at the mercy of Mother Nature can be pyschologically devastating. Farmers are around twice as likely to end their own lives with suicide than other Australians. Farmers are resilient but we are human.