Calving season and new life on the farm is hands down one of the busiest times of the year.
It’s tough, it’s relentless, it’s exhausting and sometimes it can get on top of us.
As farmers we spend a lot of time and effort making sure our cows are getting the right nutrients, minerals and ensuring they are in peak condition. If cows run out of water, we know we’ll see a drop in milk volumes at the next milking so we stay on top of troughs and water maintenance too.
But how do we fuel our own bodies to do the job when herds are calving, there’s not enough time in the day or night and when we just want that impossible moment to ourselves without worrying about number 45 who looks like she’s about to drop?
Let’s be honest farmers are endurance athletes during calving! So what can we learn from athletes?
We need to stay hydrated and keep up our water consumption, that’s ideally between 2.5 and 3.5L per day – and yes, tea and coffee counts! Thankfully, the old myth that coffee dehydrates us has been debunked.
Other foods and drinks can also help to keep you hydrated – milk, sports drinks, fruit/vegetable juices tea and coffee etc – but beware they may add caffeine or extra calories from sugar to your diet so don’t overdo them. Easy lunches like soup, broths or noodles contain a fair bit of water too and will help warm your insides and keep your joints lubricated.
Sports drinks can also be helpful while you’re performing at higher than normal rates. Carbohydrates and electrolytes can increase your energy and help your body to absorb water.
Just like you feed your cows, make sure you’re feeding yourself a consistent diet of good tucker. You wouldn’t expect your cows to go for days on end on the equivalent of potato chips and energy drinks. If there’s the perfect time for simple and nutritious, heat-and-eat meals, it’s now.
Just like running a marathon, you’re better off eating before you feel hungry or thirsty, remember you’re eating and drinking so you can perform later in the day – not just for an immediate boost.
Clearly more in equals more out and it can be tricky timing the call of nature wearing several layers of clothing including overalls and wet weather gear. But don’t let it put you off getting the right hydration – think about drinking plenty of water just before a break or at the start of your break.
The right gear is important. Sometimes simply having two pairs of gumboots mean you can put dry boots on a couple of times a day. Getting those soggy socks out of wet boots and having a dry pair of feet can be a good morale booster. The same goes for overalls and wet weather gear.
It’s important to get enough sleep. Worrying, stressing and overthinking can sometimes make that hard. It’s the late nights, overnights and early mornings too. Some people find a beer or a warm drink helps them sleep – others swear off alcohol for the duration of calving. Find what works for you and get yourself into a routine.
Calving is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, some days are extremely hard so remember the last cow to calve may need as much attention from you as the first cow.
There are all sorts of fancy theories about this, but quite simply, it’s hard to focus on doing the job efficiently and safely when you’re hungry, thirsty and tired. That’s when mistakes and accidents can happen.