Women: The unsung heroes of the dairy industry

A Coleman Brunton random telephone survey of 250 people showed quite graphically the huge role women play.

Hilary Webber , the Chairman of Network for Women In Dairying which has 1400 members and 22 regions was quoted in a recent NBR article.

So let's look at some of the realities:
  • Women have woken up to the fact that they own 50% of the business, and need to be involved in the decision making process.
  • Women have woken up to the fact that signing a document without knowledge is very dangerous, and that they need to understand exactly what is going on.
I have a friend who was busy building assets, and getting his wife to sign on all the documents without even disclosing the contents to her. One day she realised what was happening and insisted that she should look at everything. It certainly slowed him down, but it has improved their relationship. She is a very smart lady, and has become more involved in their business.

Women are now heavily involved in finance and succession planning, and are very aware of company trusts and partnerships. They play key roles and liaise with professionals.

One of the major roles identified is that women are involved in calf rearing, and I can tell you from my own experience, most women are better calf rearers than men. They seem to be able to identify whether the calves are ok or not, and they have more patience. My wife says that is "woman's intuition".

There is one 5,000 cow farm in the Ashburton area, where it is women only in the cowshed! That is the company policy.

Go to RD1 at this time of year, and you will find that it is women who are collecting the detergent, the calf meal etc., while the husband is at home doing the farm work.

It is interesting to note that RD1 have identified this trend, and now over 50% of RD1 staff are women, well informed and capable.

Along with all of the above, women manage the children, run them to school, take them to sports days, and do the errands – it is called multi-tasking.

It is identified that on average, women work outside the home 23 hours per week, which is very substantial given the other roles that they have to perform.

From my own point of view, I notice women often understand the accounting issues better. They are invariably responsible for maintaining the accounts, paying the bills and keeping the paper work up to date.

The article also identified that they have a much lesser role in repairs and maintenance, pasture management, breeding, livestock, fencing and fertiliser.

I anticipate that women will become more involved in what fertiliser is actually going on their farm, to protect the property from being over fertilised.

We at Fraser Farm Finance have identified the key role women play in all businesses. We ensure that they are fully informed and included in all discussions. Rural professionals who ignore women's important role in agriculture do so at their own peril.

In summary, society and all service providers to the rural sector need to be aware of and include women in all matters and all decision making processes. They have a key role to play in agriculture. If you took all the women out of agriculture for one week, the industry would collapse.

For their efforts, women require support, care and consideration to ensure they remain in the industry, and in your team.

If you think about it, you will realise that women are the unsung heroes of the dairy industry.


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