Andy Bauer—Ohio AgrAbility Program Educational Coordinator
February is American Heart Disease Awareness month and also a time for cold weather and snow. During cold weather, work must be done around the farm, such as feeding livestock, breaking ice in the water trough, cutting wood, or loading stored grain. It is also a time for getting equipment ready for spring tillage and planting the new crop. Farming is a stressful occupation, with farmers experiencing stresses associated with most occupations such as high demand, time pressures, and increased workload. However, farmers have added pressures associated with agriculture, such as uncontrollable weather, machinery breakdowns, variable crop prices, or even economic survival. Farming consistently has one of the highest rates of death due to stress-related conditions like hypertension and heart or artery disease.
Managing stress is an important part of preventing heart disease. Stress makes the heart beat faster to get ready for action. People who are stressed all the time secrete a hormone that that raises blood pressure causing the body to retain more fluids placing excessive stress on the heart.
· Weather is one of the uncontrollable stress factors for farmers, dress in layers and take breaks to warm up when working outside or in unheated buildings. You cannot control the weather but you can control how you prepare for it.
· Marketing grain is another area of uncontrollable stress for the farmer. Know your input costs, planting costs, and harvesting costs and control what you can. Knowing these costs will help to make marketing a little easier in knowing what your break-even point is and at what level to market your crop.
· Doing winter maintenance on equipment is also important to reduce breakdowns and stress in the spring. Don’t overwork yourself in the cold weather.
Winter is also the time for farmer meetings. I often ask, “What is your most valuable piece of equipment?” Nine times out of ten the answer is the combine, planter or big tractor, all of which are high dollar items. But, the most valuable piece of equipment on the farm is you and the biggest maintenance item you need to take care of is yourself. Get into your Doctor and get a check-up. Get the condition of your heart and body checked and make sure YOU are ready for spring. After all you are your most important and valuable piece of equipment. If you go down due to health issues, the work will not get done on a timely basis.