Dairy farms 'need 5,000 staff to hit Food Harvest 2020 target'
Irish dairy farms will need an additional 4,000 or 5,000 trained staff if the goals set out in Food Harvest 2020 are to be achieved.
Well-known Cork dairy farmer Michael Murphy said there is a looming skills shortage in the dairy sector which needs to be addressed.
Mr Murphy, who has dairy interests in Ireland, New Zealand, the USA and Chile, said that between 2,000 and 3,000 people were currently employed on dairy farms.
But he maintained that this figure would need to rise to between 6,000 and 7,000 if the target of a 50pc growth in milk production by the end of the decade was to be realised.
Speaking at the Positive Farmers Conference in Limerick, Mr Murphy warned that suitable trained workers were not "on the shelf".
While he accepted that the new Teagasc dairy management course in Clonakilty would deliver the right calibre of staff, he warned there were not enough "people in the pipeline".
He told delegates at the conference that a shortage of trained labour could be a serious constraint to expansion of dairy output in years to come.
When hiring staff, Mr Murphy said farmers should interview applicants two or three times and have their spouse or partner sit in on the final interview.