'Active' farmers dismiss unhealthy claims

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Taranaki's rugby-playing dairy farmers have kicked into touch claims they're not as fit and healthy as they once were.

The Taranaki Daily News yesterday reported the findings of a health screening programme conducted by DairyNZ and the New Zealand Institute of Rural Health (NZIRH) which found dairy farmers were no longer trim and fit and were instead overweight, stressed and they've also got high cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. The programme was carried out over the last four years and checked 2500 people working on dairy farms.

Former Taranaki lock and Ranfurly Shield-winning captain Andrew Slater said he had a "bit of a giggle" when he read the story.

"I guess it depends what sort of farmer you are really, whether you are a hands-on farmer or an armchair farmer," Slater said.

"The guys who are fully involved in their businesses are burning a lot of calories a day."

Slater, who is 3kg lighter than when he was playing, said while technology and machinery had changed the industry it was not to blame.

"My cowshed has got longer not shorter. The day-to-day stuff will never change."

The 182-game veteran said the screening programme's results were a reflection of society not just one group. "They are preaching it to us all of the time about health and children, I think it's a total thing not just a farmer thing."

Slater said there were a lot more food options available and every town now had a KFC and McDonald's.

"Thirty years ago those choices weren't there. It's up to the individual what choices they take."

Kevin (Smiley) Barrett, the father of All Black first-five-eighth Beauden Barrett, said a mate on the opposite side of the world had contacted him about the story before he had read it.

"It was quite funny because a friend from Ireland was giving me a bit of jip and I was wondering what he was on about," he said.

"They just told me to get my running shoes on."

Barrett said he didn't have a problem.

"I laughed, I'm still the same weight as when I was playing rugby so I don't think I've got any issues."

Barrett said there was no real secret to his success.

"You have got to keep active, I'm still hands on.

"If you stop being active you can certainly put kilos on pretty quickly."

He said weight issues were not isolated to farmers and believed the results reflected society as a whole.

"I was recently at a pre-season rugby match in Rotorua and looking around at the people around us, I couldn't believe it, more than half of them were over-weight, so I just think it's life in general.

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Sir Colin Meads said farming was a lot easier now than it was 40 to 50 years ago.

"I think it has a lot to do with the technology that is around nowadays," Pinetree told the Daily News.

"Everything about farming has gone mechanical, you don't dig post holes any more you just ram them in."

The former All Black locking great agreed the results were not confined to farmers and society in general was less active and eating more processed foods.

"I'm sure that's part of it."

- Taranaki Daily News

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