Sustainability isn’t about the environment, animal welfare, profitability, business succession or manageability. For me, the definition of sustainability is all of them.
Australia’s dairy farmers are good at environmental sustainability – we are the front line environmentalists behind the Landcare movement. I like to think we are also exceptional when it comes to caring for our animals too. Profitability, not so good. Business succession, woeful. Manageability, well that’s debatable.
City friends think I live an idyllic life, frolicking among the cows but this lifestyle can bring stressors urban Australians would never imagine. According to the University of South Australia:
UniSA Psychology PhD student Alison Wallis knows what can drive a dairy farmer to cry over spilt milk.
For the past four years Wallis has been investigating the work stress of South Australia’s dairy farmers.
It’s a group she says at the time of the research had one of the highest incidences of work-related stress in the nation.
“There hasn’t been a lot of research done on the stress levels of those who are self-employed,” Wallis said.
“But we found that dairy farming produced some of the highest distress scores of many Australian occupations.”
It’s all amplified in times like these – when the rain won’t stop falling here in the south and when the prices won’t stop falling up there in New South Wales and Queensland – and so much of your success or failure seems to be in the laps of the gods (whether Thor or Coles).
On the other hand, it’s times like these that faith in human nature is restored by the generosity of people who care. People like Queensland ag teacher, Lisa Claessen, who, seeing the distress of her students, has taken to social media to petition the Coles CEO for a sustainable milk price. If you would rather not have UHT on your cornflakes, please add your name to her cause.