We suggest you think about what you would do and how you will manage COVID-19 before you need to, as part of your business continuity planning.
It might be useful to talk through with your networks of farming colleagues, neighbours and friends about how you might support each other in different scenarios.
The Delta strain of COVID-19 is more virulent, spreading faster and with potentially more serious health impacts. MPI has advised that if a business is found to have a case, then isolation, quarantine and COVID-19 health requirements for people could affect business operations.
Key management considerations
- Making sure your staff understand that the strain is more virulent so they need to be even more cautious than ever to keep their bubble small and maintain hygiene away from the workplace/farm.
- Encouraging staff to get vaccinated. Employment related guidance is available here.
- At Alert Level 4, it is mandatory to wear face coverings on farm for hosts and external service providers (e.g. vets and industry professionals) if they are coming on farm to work with you. This will not only help you keep your farm bubble safe, but will mean your service providers are able to continue their essential work.
- It is important to understand that there is no evidence that COVID is transmitted via milk. But it is critical that correct health and safety procedures are followed for anyone on-farm confirmed or possibly exposed to someone that has COVID-19. This is to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect other people working on-farm or who come on to the farm.
- If anyone has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but has not been tested, or has not had the test results back yet, we recommend a precautionary approach is taken and the guidelines below are followed.
Getting vaccinated for COVID-19
As part of your COVID-19 response we encourage you to get you and your teams vaccinated. A handy website to see appointment availability is here.
How to protect your milking operation and animals
- There is no evidence to date that COVID-19 is transmissible via food or food products. Pasteurisation of milk destroys most foodborne pathogens. Pasteurisation temperatures will also destroy coronaviruses such as COVID-19.
- Ensure all members of the team follow basic hygiene measures including washing/cleaning hands regularly, use gloves for milking, and wash and dry hands after removing gloves. Every member of the team needs to use their own gloves – there should be no sharing of gloves. Milking sleeves will further help with hygiene.
- After milking, ensure that the farm dairy is cleaned thoroughly, especially the surfaces that people touch during milking, to prevent any possible transmission of COVID-19 (e.g. from a person who might not be showing symptoms).
- Make sure only chemicals approved for use in the farm dairy are used.
Some suggestions include:
- Reserve some of the recycled hot acid sanitiser wash from washing the plant, to scrub or wipe surfaces commonly touched during milking e.g. rails, doors, clusters, cups.
- Walls and floors can be scrubbed down using an approved farm dairy maintenance product, such as sodium hypochlorite. This should be diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Read more here on sanitisers you have on hand that are safe and effective for use.
- Pay attention to common touchpoints on vehicles or motor bikes, and don’t share helmets.
- On other parts of the farm it may mean agreeing not to go near potentially contaminated surfaces (e.g. sections of fencing), for up to 72 hours. See here for information on survival of coronaviruses on different surfaces.
- Consider if you will need relief staffing or if you can cover the labour gap with existing employees.
- If the unwell person is you, as a sole trader / the only person working on the farm, then you will need to find relief milking cover. Before the relief staff start any work on the farm, they or someone else (but not you) will need to clean and disinfect all surfaces that could carry the virus. The appropriate personal protection equipment must be worn during cleaning.
How to protect other people on-farm
- Health officials will also contact the workplace to discuss what this situation means for your workers.
- Close contacts are required to self-isolate, i.e. everybody the unwell person lives with must stay at home. Read more about this here.
- You are able to talk to other staff members about the positive test result but no discrimination is allowed. Find out more about your obligations here. For any employment questions, visit Federated Farmers link here.
For more info
- DairyNZ COVID page
- Mental Wellbeing For You & Your Workplace - Mentemia
- Federated Farmers' COVID page
- Ministry of Health website
- Unite against COVID-19 (covid19.govt.nz)