As I prepare to step outside my comfort zone and run my first ultra-marathon I am constantly looking for motivation to help get me past the inevitable psychological barriers that I will face during the race.

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Earlier this week I spent an afternoon with some clients, Stuart and Helen, who have recently been dealt a massive hammer blow on top of the already forecast low milk returns. Their positive attitude is infectious and when most people would have given in they have taken up the challenge head on.

This couple milk 320 cows on a leased dairy farm on some tough North Waikato soil which harvests around 9 tonne of pasture in a good year. The word drought means normal summer and a bit of grass in January is a luxury. The rental they pay is well in advance of what the returns for the land can offer but they were pressured into paying the price three years ago when options were low and time was short. Such is the roll of the farming dice. This year their lease will cost around $2.15/kgms which in itself is a blow given it is dead money to them because it does not service their own land debt.

Then this season a sledge hammer struck. Stuart became very ill and was finally, after a long delay, diagnosed with aggressive form of Sarcoidosis, a debilitating disease which affects the lungs and suddenly without notice he was removed from actively taking part in the daily running of the farm. On top of a high rental they now must employ a farm manager on full salary as well.

We have worked a lot together over the past couple of years on personal growth,  and discussing the benefit of health and fitness so now when some people would have throw in the dice these two refuse to do so. Helen has taken up a level 5 ITO course to enhance her business skills and now informs me that she has entered the Surf 2 Firth Bush half marathon which is probably the toughest running challenge of that length anyone can undertake. Stuart is beginning to understand his disease and slowly learning to cope with the side effects of the drugs and now, rather than wallow in self-pity, is walking up to 8 km per day, sarcoidosis and all.

There is a long way to go but the message here is simple. The mind is stronger than the body. There is always another way and another day. Times will get tough and you will wonder how you will ever get through. Your attitude toward your situation is half the battle so having a positive focus outside farming can help you get through tough times, so as I prepare for my first ultra-marathon in February I will use this couple as motivation to keep going when I think there is no hope left.

Ian Handcock

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We have all heard the statement ‘We need to produce more food to feed the world’s population’  on a regular basis.

If the statement is true then farmers had better produce more right! – and the obvious way to do this is to follow the congregation and join the masses building housing for dairy cattle, irrigation schemes and purchasing more supplement feed to produce more milk and meat.

But what if this was a big hoax?, I mean a real big one because if we all sat down and analysed our lifestyles, diets and habits we would find millions of tonnes of food worldwide is wasted every year and millions of tonnes of raw product is made into comfort foods with little or no real food value.

Companies are preaching the gospel messages of herd housing, sustainability, nitrates and effluent management because they are all emotive messages and farmers are joining the congregation not because they want to but because they are drawn in by the great redeemer.

The message is so powerful that the whole country is getting behind it, well except for the 3 or so million people who don’t really care because they drive their car and drink their flat whites regardless of what farmers are doing.

Think about it, we don’t need to feed the world we just need to feed our family, everything else is about making money. If the government was so intent on feeding the world then they would allow genetically modified plants into New Zealand so yields could be higher, stock would be fed better so would produce more protein. There would be wastage tax on food not used, the sea would be farmed, and other such initiatives would arise.

So who is the wolf? well the wolf is the economy. The wolf wants to be fed and doesn’t care about the worlds people. There is already enough food being wasted on a daily basis to feed everyone on the planet – if we really wanted to. The world is run by the dollar not a passion to feed the population. It is simply a big money-go-round.

So think about what you want for yourself, your family and their family before you join a congregation that you will regret. If you hear yourself saying hallelujah when you are up to your eyeballs in debt remember you can also get adrenaline running through your veins by going for a run or a mountain bike ride.

And beware of the wolf in cows clothing.

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Where have all the farmers gone?

While on twitter last night the conversation got back on to the lack of people coming into the industry. This is becoming a real issue and I got to thinking about things farmers could do to help themselves.

Lets look at three quick reasons why this is occurring.

1. The Labour government a few years back pushed for more tertiary education. They channeled money away from trades and farming and into Universities and schools. The result is a shortage of tradespeople and agricultural brains. These shortsighted muck-ups are simply what politicians are paid to do. They create the money go round. Local governments could certainly do more to assist gaining and retaining ag-staff as well.

2. Farmers are their own worst enemies. The more equity they get the more land they will buy. Land prices are based on what someone will pay NOT what the land will produce. Because of that I have little sympathy if they are having staff problems. Farmers [apparently] are in it for the equity  so they will sell up when the going is good, you can’t blame them for that. Farmers leaving the industry mean families leave the industry.

3. Society. Technology and in particular social media has changed peoples lives and will continue to be so immeasurably.

The industry needs to STOP for a second and reassess what it is doing.

Here are 5 things that will help the industry in the long run:

1. Become Champions. Create a culture passionate people will want to be part of. No one wants to be part of a needy culture. If you have to really try hard to convince someone to milk your cows they will hardly be passionate about it nor a long term prospect. Stop the ‘want,want,want’. Start the ‘we have this if you want some you will have to work for it’. Name me a sports team that has won a championship title without having a champion culture.

2. Focus on your business. Good work environments will have good staff and good productivity. Everyone’s idea of a good environment is different that is the beauty of life. There are some great innovative ways to play with your business structure to get better results.

3. Agriculture needs equity and the industry needs farmers to return to the days where they gave good people a leg up. The greatest future opportunity now lies not in 50/50 sharemilking but in equity partnerships with trustworthy people with great values that you can work with.

4. Be a Role model.  Become more balanced in your own life because what you say and do around others shows your true colours. People aren’t fools, you cannot ask for something but be the opposite.

5. Take on a coach/mentor. If you want to get on top and stay on top you need  someone to help you get out of the valleys and up onto the peaks. The All Blacks are the best rugby team in the world with some of the best players in the world but to stay there they need a coach.


As with anything the 10:80:10 rule applies. In Agriculture there are a 10% of great people working to showcase the opportunities agriculture has for future generations. 80% are happy to jump on the wagon but will not put their hand up to help and the bottom 10% are on the next train out.

Share this with those you care about and become one of the top 10%


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