Friday, August 19, 2016
Raising livestock is a lifestyle choice that comes with great responsibility, as well as great rewards. We work in all weather, every day to care for our flock and sometimes it’s a 24/7 job. So what do you do when you need to travel? Even if you are not taking travel vacations, there will be times when you need to or want to leave whether it’s for training, family events, or emergencies. I am very lucky to have found excellent farm sitters and that’s the first step. But how do you set them up for success doing your job and all the things you do every day, almost without thinking, so they are most comfortable and you can be stress free when you leave?
Was it something we said?
SCHEDULE A TRIAL RUN. Invite your farm sitter to spend a few hours or to stay overnight when you DO NOT need them, so they can work with you without time pressure and experience the morning and evening routine. Even if they don’t come back for months, this can provide another level of comfort for them and for you.
WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS are a must even if your sitter has visited recently. Have a set of instructions always printed out and updated for the season. In an emergency, you may not have time to print, or as it inevitably does. technology fails us when we have a critical need. Have a version always handy and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
FIX the things that you know are broken or inefficient that you just deal with daily because there are always more pressing issues. Eliminate the trip hazards, fix those faulty gate latches and make your farm safer and more efficient for both you and your sitter.
GET SUGGESTIONS from your farm sitter. Ask them what would make things easier for them. Some of the best ideas and improvements have come from those special people who have cared for my animals while I’m away.
SIMPLIFY tasks where possible. What is a must do vs. a nice to do? For example, my barn must be cleaned twice daily, and I clean pastures daily to keep the load a bit lighter, but the pasture can be done every other day. In the summer fans are on timers.
IDENTIFY your animals. With a small herd, breakaway ID collars are an easy way for your farm sitter to identify specific animals who may be pregnant or have special needs. While I know all my animals, let’s face it, those white alpacas all look the same to someone who doesn’t see them on a regular basis. Pictures are just as tough.
STOP or LIMIT DELIVERIES and services while you are gone. This way your farm sitter is clear about who should or should not be on the property during your absence.
STOCK UP. Make sure you have plenty of everything on hand, alpaca supplements, dog/cat food, stall pellets, etc. so your sitter doesn’t have to spend time running to the store.
LABELS, whether it’s a label with feeding instructions or which light switches to turn on at night, labels in critical places can help remind your sitter of important details.
FIRST AID KIT & MEDS. Print out the list of your meds and first aid supplies and keep it with your Inventory. I have all my meds stored in a bin and of course I know what I have, but how quickly will my farm sitter be able to sort through my mess and find what they need? It’s also a good idea to do an inventory annually and throw out anything that’s too old and make sure you have the basics on hand.
EMERGENCY CONTACTS Even though you may be reachable, a list of emergency contacts is critical including your vet, close neighbors, other alpaca owners. Check with them ahead of time to make sure they are available while you are gone.
BE PREPARED. What are the things you do when the electric goes out? Where are the GFI resets, who should they call for internet outages, how do they reset your router, etc? Does your sitter know where to shelter in the event of tornado? Do you have a weather radio? Fire Extinguishers? Are there special instructions for high winds, excessive rain or snow?
Finally, I’m always wondering what it is I forgot, but usually it’s not that important. So yes, you can leave the farm and know that your Farm Sitter is well prepared and your animals will be just fine while you are away!