As of writing this article, there are now more than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the world and this virus has close to 60,000 deaths in the last three months.
This is serious. You probably have already taken measures to keep yourself, your loved ones and your employees safe. Please continue to do so.
In this article, let’s talk about a few useful tips to help you manage yourself, your employees, and your farm.
1. Dealing with the virus
Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face. Make sure that you and the people around you practice good respiratory hygiene, when they cough or sneeze. And most importantly, stay at home as much as possible, especially if you are feeling unwell.
Over the past week, you may have heard these four sentences umpteen number of times. It might sound boring now. But they help you deal with the virus in a responsible way.
2. Dealing with yourself
In addition to this, it is equally important for you to also deal with your emotions. Because a crisis like this can affect each of us differently.
You might feel overwhelmed by the information on your news channel. Maybe you are getting stressed out with the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in your town. Or maybe you might feel frustrated that you are not able to do what you need to get done.
Whatever your emotions are, it is important to acknowledge them and deal with it. Also, please find some time to do things that make you feel safe, calm and grounded. This would help you take better decisions while dealing with the situation at hand.
3. Dealing with your farm activities and milking
Good news is that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through food or livestock. So there will continue to be demand for your farm produce.
However, the virus can survive on surfaces for several hours. Therefore it is important to frequently wipe surfaces and wash your hands after touching surfaces.
To ensure the safety of your employees cut down all non-essential farm work and related visits. Make it mandatory for everyone at work to maintain a minimum distance of at least 1.5 meters between each other.
Disinfect ‘high touch’ work area surfaces such as shared equipment, milk tanker points, office door knobs, milk vats and CIP panels at least once a day. The person disinfecting surfaces should definitely wear gloves and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer afterwards.
Dairy Australia has given a list of such ‘high touch’ work area surfaces for you to consider sanitizing:
- Door handles and light switches
- Vat control pad, connection points, outlet taps
- hose taps, lid, sight glass, agitator switch, ladder rails
- Vacuum pump switch
- Wash system controls
- Pens and writing surfaces
- Shared milking aprons, sleeves, glove boxes
- Gates, latches and handrails
- Milk tubes, clusters, teat disinfection equipment
- Taps and hoses
- Cupboard and fridge handles
In case you face a shortage of disinfectants, you can make your own 70% alcohol solution by mixing seven parts methylated spirits with three parts water. This can also save you some money.
These measures will keep you and your employees safe. Now, it is way better to be safe than sorry.
4. Dealing with your employees
As an employer you must do everything possible to eliminate the risk of your employees contracting COVID-19 at the farm. This means you must provide a safe work environment that includes access to adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper.
Your employees that have a history of recent overseas travel or symptoms of coronavirus should not come to work. They should remain isolated in their homes.
In case you plan to change roster or work hours because of COVID-19, then you need to discuss this with the employee and hopefully get them to agree to the proposed changes.
Good staff members are very hard to replace so please do this with a lot of caution. Like always, any agreed changes should be in writing and be signed by both you and your employees.
If one of your employees contracts COVID-19, make sure they utilize their accrued sick leave. Also, be prepared for this.
While the legal rules are not yet clear, you may have to provide workers’ compensation in case your employees present clear evidence of contracting the virus at work (and not in their community).
5. Dealing with potential losses
During this crisis, farm work and productivity may suffer temporarily. You might not be able to do everything you normally do. You may not have all your employees reporting to work. Or you may face logistical challenges. These might lower your profits or even lead to outright losses.
It is important for you to anticipate this in advance. You could consider addressing this by taking your employees into confidence. They might even surprise you with effective solutions.
On the upside, whatever improvements you achieve in terms of more efficient workflows, lower costs or better outcomes would become your best practices going forward. So this can also be a real opportunity to improve things that were always taken for granted. After all necessity is the mother of invention.
In case you predict substantial losses, because of the COVID-19 crisis, you could consider applying for financial assistance by the Australian Government for corona affected businesses.
6. Dealing with your pasture
To help you deal with the COVID-19 crisis, we are offering you several upgrades in our free plan.
At zero cost, you can now manage your paddock records, get quicker support via our in-app chat and link your farm account with a consultant of your choice.
But more importantly, we will now help you set up your farm, for free. This can save you hours of initial setup work. Here are more details on this.
This brings us to the end of this article. I hope you found it useful. And I’m sure that you along with thousands of other Australian farmers will rise up to this occasion as heroes in your local community.
Please share this with other farmers you know. If you have any questions, please let me know. I promise to answer them for you. Thanks for reading and until we meet again,
- Ollie Roberts, 09 April 2020