Auction mart health checks may not be going ahead but a new series of "bitesize" videos are being released to support farmers' health and wellbeing

Farmers and their families are being reminded about the small changes to everyday habits that they can make to best deal with the rigours of the year ahead.

With New Year’s resolutions typically waning for many of us already, timely messages about alcohol consumption, diet, exercise, stress and mental health will be shared online by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) next week.

Research suggests that getting more exercise, losing weight and improving diet are the most common New Year’s resolutions but only a quarter keep all of their pledges.

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Important health and wellbeing messages are usually shared by YAS’s Yorkshire Rural Support Network during free health checks delivered by fully trained health professionals at auctions marts and trade events throughout the year, however they have temporarily halted due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Over last winter, before the March 2020 outbreak a total of 231 people were given health checks during visits to eight different locations.

With the lockdown continuing, instead of on-site visits, a series of bitesize farmer-friendly videos have been produced with the help of grant funding from The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

It is hoped that livestock marts and other farmer-facing businesses will share the clips on their own social media channels to help reach as many in the farming community as possible.

Kate Dale, co-ordinator of the Yorkshire Rural Support Network, who farms with her husband Ben near Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, said: “As a farmer, it doesn’t matter what type of farm you have, what size it is, the pressures are all the same.

“We are so often operating alone nowadays and it can be a really lonely existence, working long hours in difficult weather conditions, not to mention all the usual animal welfare, farm inspection, financial and family responsibilities and the best of us can soon feel pretty overwhelmed.

“It’s important we all try and look after our own health.

“By doing so, we are going to be better equipped to run our own businesses. We really hope you will find this series of video clips helpful.”

A short video about alcohol will be shared on the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels on Monday, January 11.

Further video messages will be posted daily throughout the week.

They feature Anne Reed, a farmer’s wife and health practitioner from Thirsk, who normally delivers the society’s health checks. Anne said: “With the ongoing uncertainty around farming, I think it’s important to offer some tips to help keep our farmers and families healthy.

“If after watching our videos you have any concerns about your health, then please do contact your GP surgery.”

The videos are packed with helpful advice and reminders, including the importance of not over-indulging on alcohol and carbohydrates, keeping an eye on portion sizes and exercising for at least 2.5 hours during the course of a week.

As part of the video series, David Moyles, of Samaritans and founder of the charity’s Rural Support Initiative, presents a short reminder about the importance of talking about problems and urges anyone who is struggling to reach out for support.

David said: “If you are feeling rubbish, at whatever the time of day, we are always going to be at the other end of the phone for you.

“The service we provide is in confidence and is completely non-judgmental. We’ll give you room to explore your thoughts and find your own solutions.”

The Farmer Health Checks are organised by the Yorkshire Rural Support Network at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, with support from the Prince’s Countryside Fund, the Farming Community Network and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

It provides a rolling programme of health checks which offers convenient opportunities for farmers to have potentially life-saving health checks.

Usually held at a number of auction marts and agricultural events each year, the checks have previously detected cases of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. In some cases, it has led to farmers being referred to their GP.

The Yorkshire Rural Support Network is a partnership of Yorkshire statutory and voluntary agencies that together promote and provide sources of help to the farming community all-year round.