The ergonomics of dairy farming
Farming as a whole–especially dairy farming–takes a mental and physical toll on anyone’s body. While mental health has gained traction in recent years amongst the agricultural community, it is important we remember to treat our whole self with kindness and safety–and that includes our bodies!
Many office workers receive tips and tricks on how to organize their desks, but for dairy farmers, that is the exact opposite of feasible. A common complaint frequently heard from producers is an ache in their back, soreness in their feet, and frequent fatigue.
According to research developed by the National Farm Medicine Center, it is important to take breaks during the day, use proper lifting techniques, and stretching before and after tasks that are physically demanding. For example, when artificially inseminating a cow, the organization recommends to lean forward with your entire body when using the practice and having a breeding chute if possible to minimize unnecessary movements.
For milking, having supplies such as teat dip within easy reach is extremely helpful whether it is on a cart or in a pocket if an employee is wearing an apron. Using stools and steps can also help prevent strain and minimize bending or squatting. This tip specifically aims to prevent issues with the back and/or knees.
Another common theme amongst dairy famers is spending time in a feed truck or tractor. The National Farm Medicine Center recommends to look for or install a swivel air ride seat and easy shifting mechanisms in tractors. For any vehicle, placing a lumbar cushion in the seat provides back support and can prevent pain.
Additionally, the wrong shoes can also result in unnecessary knee and back pain. There is understanding in the industry that these are tough times, but that does not mean that parts of your body need to physically feel that pain as well. Purchasing a good pair of shoes with proper support, seeking insoles to provide extra cushioning, or even consulting with a podiatrist can prevent pain and strain.
Lastly, it’s no secret that agriculture is a demanding industry and at times sleep is cut. Dairy farmers certainly feel the negative effects of sleep deprivation and must be mindful to regularly take time to recharge and rejuvenate as this improves performance and transforms attitudes. Whether this means standing your ground for some time off or planning for a certain sleep schedule, dairy producers deserve to be rested.
Rest stands true both physically and mentally. Giving our bodies and minds sufficient time to rest can alter any operation for the better. Over the years, the dairy industry–along with individual producers–has worked hard to find ways to improve ergonomics and find solutions that work for their unique situation. Everyone involved deserves to benefit from this experience and ensure their physical health is supported.