Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup says there is a lot of apprehension among farmers about the future as they follow and experience the disruptions caused by Covid and also by the war in Ukraine.
“The last thing an 80-year-old farmer wants is a whole lot of young people who haven’t been self-isolating turning up to his place to shear his sheep,” he says.
Everyone should put safety first throughout the whole supply chain – from the farmers themselves to contractor employees, Barrowcliffe told Rural News.
“They need to ask the questions, is it essential and can it wait?” he says.
He says while everyone wants to go to work, not all can at the moment for many different reasons.
“We have to be mindful and respect people’s opinion. They might have an underlying health issue; someone they are caring for may have one or it may just be the age demographic.”
Barrowcliffe says everyone is taking Covid-19 very seriously.
“The self-isolation, the farmers preparing their work sites, what the shearing contractors are doing to get their staff to work, and while at work and once they have left work as well.”
He says animal welfare issues also must have priority.
“Let’s use preventive animal welfare issues rather than reactive ones.”
The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association has put out a set of guidelines in conjunction with Federated Farmers which has been provided to MPI and Beef+Lamb.
“As long as everyone follows those and respects the intent of those well, I can’t see a problem with the current information we have and how to manage or control Covid-19.”
He says with so many jobs and tasks in farming you have to apply the rules as is required to each situation.
Barrowcliffe adds that flexibility is needed, but so is social responsibility.
“Reinforcing that yarn that farmers need to be proactive and think about what essential jobs are coming up, put steps in place to make sure that their work sites are set up for us to enter and for us to make sure we have got suitable staff that can come on and do the job for them.”