Vets really are a farmer’s best friend

A recent study, carried out by staff at Ulster University, has found that farmers are more likely to off-load any worries they have to vets than other professionals they come in contact with.

The work was carried out by a team lead by Ursula Walsh.

She said that vets significantly outscore GPs when it comes to farmers discussing stress-related matters.

“Farmers obviously regard vets as a very trusting group of professionals,” she said.

The work carried out by the Walsh team confirms that coping with animal health and other government-focused administration requirements is putting more pressure on farmers than concerns they may have over debt-related matters.

“It surprised us to learn that coping with red tape and bureaucracy are the major stress factors impacting on farmers,” she said.

Beforehand, I thought that money worries would have been the issue that gave farmers most cause for concern.

“We specifically focused on a male-farming cohort. The work comprised of a survey of farmers attending the 2014 Balmoral Show. This was followed up by similar surveys, carried out at livestock marts. We also sourced feedback from a farm-focus group. We surveyed 94 farmers in total.”

Walsh said that occupational stress is an issue that comes to the fore within all walks of life. However, farming is different, she noted.

It is more than an occupation. In many cases, entire families are involved in the business. Farmers are actually living in their places-of-work. And, of course, there is a unique history associated with each farm.

“Farmers and their spouses have been shown to suffer more anxiety and depression than non-farmers. Suicide is the second most common cause of death, after accidents, involving young farmers. And, in addition, suicide is also a significant cause of mortality in older and retired farmers and amongst farmers’ wives.”

In light of these findings, Walsh is recommending that a comprehensive overhaul of the administrative burdens required of farmers should be undertaken, in order to create more accessible, user-friendly and less weighty procedures.