Preparing for the busy season

Calving season can be a very demanding time for farming women. Here are a few tips from Farmstrong on how to get through

Get in Condition

Check out Farmstrong’s Fit for Calving conditioning videos here,  these are specifically tailored to the needs of calf-rearers. These stretches and exercises work for women of all physical abilities, and involve movements that will strengthen muscle groups you commonly use during the season, such as arm circles, calf raises, toe taps and shoulder shrugs. Everything you need for these exercises can be found around the farm – cans of food, cast iron pots and chairs

So, if you’re lifting buckets, leaning over fences, picking up calves these exercises will definitely help you avoid unnecessary strains and injuries. The idea is to start with 5 to 10 minutes of exercises a day and then build up to around 30 minutes a day so your body is ready to go. It’s only going to take 10 to 20 minutes out of your day to get your body moving again and fire up muscle groups that haven’t been used up for a little a while. It will make you feel good about yourself and about where your body needs to be when you’re lifting and pushing and pulling.

Put the right fuel in the tank

Food is just like fuel for a vehicle, so we need to make sure we have regular meals and snacks to give us the energy to keep going. When we are busy, food planning and healthy options often take a back seat, but that is the very time that they are the most important so we don’t get sick and so that we have adequate nutrients for a demanding time.

When you are tired or exhausted it can be really hard to be motivated to shop and cook healthy options, but good food should be a priority at busy times to ensure you’re getting a balanced mix of nutrients. Practical strategies to help are:

  • cook once and eat twice (cook a double or triple batch of bolognaise, soup, casserole or curry and freeze the remainder for tired times)
  • make use of labour-saving equipment such as slow cookers (pile everything into it in the morning and hey presto by dinner time you will have a hearty and nourishing meal)
  • have some fast and easy options available for those days when you don’t have the energy, such as a nourishing smoothie, scrambled eggs, muesli with fruit and yoghurt or a meat, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich
  • eat small and often so that you are regularly getting some fuel into your body to help with energy levels
  • Include protein foods (meat, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, milk, nuts, legumes, fish or chicken) at each meal to keep your blood sugar levels constant, which will also help you keep going for longer.
Schedule in mini breaks and manage your stress levels 

When people are under pressure the things that go out the window are often the factors that keep us well. Things like catching up with friend’s, exercise and staying in touch with your community. That’s often your off-farm stuff, but can also be done on farm e.g. taking the kids eeling or for a motorbike ride.

You also need to build in recovery and short breaks that will enable you to have some time out. No one can go hard out all day so building in short breaks during the day is important.

Often this can be as simple as taking that five to ten minutes to step away from what you’re doing. Then when you get back into things, you’re much fresher and making good decisions. When you’re busy it can be hard to do that. The key to taking short breaks is to book it in the diary and stick to it.

Grabbing those mini breaks during the day, definitely helps when dealing with physically and mentally demanding jobs, it will make you more efficient. You’ won’t be as tired and it will allow you to be there for others too.

If you are struggling to cope with stress that’s when it’s good to talk to others about it. Surround yourself with people who are upbeat, pragmatic and able to give you a different perspective. This can help you change the way you look at a situation. Connections with family and friends, professionally and in your community, are a big part of staying well.

Schedule some ‘Me Time’

Women often face different pressures to men, but the effects are essentially the same, where the demands can sometimes outweigh our ability to cope.

The message overall is the same one as for guys who work long hours. To be sustainable and healthy, for not only ourselves but others, we either need fewer demands (ie reducing the load or saying ‘no’ to some things), or to have enough down time for our bodies to relax and recharge.

Avoid viewing the things that keep you well as an indulgence or an extra, but rather as the key to helping you cope on an ongoing basis with daily demands of calving. Scheduling some ‘me time’, time for yourself, is vital to make sure you are looking after yourself physically and mentally. Give yourself a little time each day to recharge your batteries!

Farmstrong is a rural wellbeing programme that aims to help farmers, growers and rural families live well to farm well. To find out what works for you and ‘lock it in’ check out our videos, stories and tips at Farmstrong.


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