Farmers make a pitstop for health

Wintec nursing student Georgia Cullen (left) checks Kelly Dreadon’s blood pressure at Farm Source Cambridge.

Sitting in a makeshift medical clinic at Farm Source Cambridge, sharemilker Kelly Dreadon watches with interest as Wintec nursing student Georgia Cullen slips a pressure cuff over her right arm.

Having your blood pressure measured can be a nerve-racking experience when you work in a high-stress industry like farming, Kelly says, so she’s pleased when the gauge delivers a healthy reading.

“Doing this again in calving would be educational,” she observes.

Kelly and her husband Warren, who 50/50 sharemilk 300 cows just north of Cambridge, visited the Farm Source store this month for a free DairyNZ Health PitStops check.

They had their blood glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure tested by Wintec nursing students, who also measured their height, weight and waist circumferences.

The couple then took DairyNZ’s online questionnaire, answering questions to build a richer picture of their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Warren and Kelly (right) discuss DairyNZ’s wellbeing questionnaire with Wintec nursing tutor Maria Te Huia.

Having taken a PitStop check at last year’s Fieldays, Kelly was keen to find out how her indicators were tracking after recent efforts to eat healthier.

“One of the interesting things I found out talking to the nurses was about cortisol and stress making weight loss harder,” she said.  “For me sleep – I don’t get a lot of that – so again it makes being healthier a lot harder.”

Warren was surprised to find his cholesterol was low and appreciated the chance to review his health, since he didn’t often visit his doctor.

For Kelly, the snapshot reinforced the need to find more time for “recreation, exercise and good sleep”.

Autumn was a good time for farmers to “take stock and focus a little bit more on your balance”, which she and Warren were already trying to do, she said.

Maria takes blood from Warren’s finger to check his glucose levels and cholesterol.

“We’re all working and living in our businesses and if we fall over that’s it in a way – there’s no safety net.  You’ve got to be firing on all cylinders to make things work…if you do get sick it takes its toll not only on you but on your family, your business, your colleagues, so you need to look after yourself.”

The couple “absolutely” recommended the PitStop check to other farmers.

“It only takes 5-10 minutes and if it does alert you to something then it’s a win,” Kelly said.

DairyNZ’s Health PitStops project, which began in 2010, was funded by a seven-year programme led by DairyNZ, Fonterra and other commercial partners, in conjunction with the Ministry for Primary Industries, and offered at events such as National Fieldays.

With the programme about to end, Fonterra’s Farm Source networks and national nursing students have teamed up to keep the PitStops project running under a sustainable business model, so farmers can continue to take advantage of it.

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