New initiative prepares women for calf rearing

Canterbury dairy farm contractor Nicole Jackson is on a mission to reduce the number of injuries to female calf rearers during the physically demanding calving season.

She’s created a six-week online conditioning and strengthening initiative for women to prepare their bodies for the physically gruelling calving season, which is currently under way in many parts of the country.

“There’s a lot of information out there about things like getting meals and the kids ready for calving season but not a lot about getting your body ready,” says Nicole, a mother of two young boys.

“Women are often involved in calf rearing and it’s really hard physical work. Women are often busy juggling kids and work so it’s hard for them sometimes to stay active and find time to work on their fitness. Then calving season arrives and they find they aren’t physically prepared and injure themselves.”

The often repetitive movements involved in calf rearing can also lead to more serious issues like carpel tunnel syndrome, she says.

So Nicole teamed up with Canterbury dairy farmer and personal trainer Alice Liljeback to create Fit For Calving which launched this year on 5 June.

Daily videos posted

The online initiative, accessed via Facebook, is designed to be completed in the lead up to calving season to prepare women’s bodies for calf rearing.

It features daily videos of Nicole and Alice, along with a few other farmers, doing warm ups, stretches and strengthening exercises at different locations around Alice’s farm and various Mid-Canterbury rural halls.

“The idea is that you do two or three exercises a day for a total of five minutes starting on a Monday and then by Friday you build up so that you do a 20-minute set of eight exercises, or go ahead and combine more than one any time you want”

Nicole, who owns Ultra-Scan Ashburton (a pregnancy testing and animal service franchise), says having the initiative online makes it easy for people to do the exercises when it suits them.

“It’s also great because you don’t need to buy any equipment. If you want to add weights or resistance in, just grab something from around the house like a towel or a can of food.”

Good for your wellbeing too

Nicole, who is originally from Canada, has a background in nursing and an interest in promoting health and wellbeing.

“Farmstrong has been really supportive of Fit For Calving. Being physically prepared for calving also helps with the mental health side of things like the stress and sleepless nights that can come with the calving season.”

Nicole says women involved in the programme are noticing positive differences.

“The main feedback we’ve had is that it’s got people thinking about the physical demands of calf rearing and getting their bodies ready. This year was about testing the waters and seeing where it went. The biggest learning curve for us was the technological side of things like loading videos but we’re definitely keen to do it again next year,” she says.

If anybody is interested in taking part next year, keep an eye on their Facebook page and website for details.

“At the end of the day, we want an injury-free calving season for everybody.”

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