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. You’ll need to think carefully about how to manage risks, including:
- 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
- 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.
Note - this is our best interpretation of the information available to date. We will update information here as it comes to hand.
Getting tested for COVID-19
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms or if you have been to locations of interest at the date and times specified you should isolate yourself from others and call Healthline 0800 358 5453 (more info here). Essential workers can identify themselves when you call Healthline and your testing will be prioritised.
Border workers now have the choice to provide saliva as a sample for surveillance testing for COVID-19 rather than undertake a nasal swab. See Saliva testing border workers. And they can book in the saliva test here. To register the essential worker will need to have their NHI number – they can find this on places such as their prescriptions, hospital letters or by calling the Ministry of health 0800 855 066.
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.
What do you do if you or someone who works on the farm has COVID-19
- If you, a member of your family, or a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, or is a close contact of a confirmed case, you should follow the advice of the Ministry of Health.
- If you are a COVID-19 positive case, you’ll receive instructions and advice directly from a public health official which is specific to your individual situation and according to your needs. Further guidance can be found here.
- Further guidance for workplaces that have a case of COVID-19 can be found here.
- COVID is a notifiable disease and the New Zealand Code of Practice 1 Design and Operation of Farm Dairies requires that people with such illnesses must not work in the farm dairy. Records of such illnesses, including dates must be kept.
- Contact your dairy company immediately so that appropriate control measures are put in place, and to manage the risk to tanker drivers and others.
- This means the unwell person is likely to be on sick leave, but other options are available. It is possible you may be able to access a wage subsidy to assist with this. Read more about these options here.
- You are able to talk to other staff members about the positive test result but avoid discrimination. Find out more about your obligations here. For any employment questions, visit Federated Farmers here.
- If the person unwell is self-isolating ensure support is available, for example, that they have enough food, fluids, and any medication they may need. Visitors should not go to the house, but it is okay for friends, family, whānau or delivery drivers to drop off food and supplies at the door.
- Keep checking in, by telephone, on any staff member who is self-isolating about both their physical and mental health.
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.
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)