In my career I have asked to turn dairies around financially. When investigating the situations, the real issues behind the problems have been most interesting. These have ranged from family struggles, divorces in process, depression, burn out, and some malicious banking.
All of this has led to an increase in suicides.
An article in USA Today on March 2020 states the following:
Farmers are among the most likely to die by suicide, compared with other occupations, according to a January study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also found that suicide rates overall had increased by 40% in less than two decades.
The problem has plagued agricultural communities across the nation, but perhaps nowhere more so than the Midwest, where extreme weather and falling prices have bludgeoned dairy and crop producers in recent years.
One of my favorite sayings is that all cow problems are people problems. This I have found true over and over again. The signs of behavioral stress are the following:
- Worrying about things you didn’t worry about before
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Poor concentration, confusion, forgetfulness, working harder, and getting less done
- Uncertainty or trouble making decisions
- Relationship problems
- Sad Mood
- Self-medication with alcohol or drugs
The outcome looks like this: The farm changes in looks and operations (a once neat and tidy farm is now run down), cows are in rough condition, production that was normal in previous years drops, and there is often an unplanned sale of animals or land.
When I am asked to turn a dairy around financially, a lot of the time I help individuals get help.
The government has recognized this issue and has created FRSANS (Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network). The description of the program from their website, is to establish a network that connects individuals in agriculture-related occupations to stress assistance programs. I would encourage everyone in need to take advantage of this program. I would also encourage family members to get help from their religious groups, neighbors, and the professional services available.