Viewpoint: Have the Irish got too lazy to do farm work for €12.50/hr?
Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30
With 15 Romanians landing on the home farm at the weekend to pick flowers, I know all about the difficulties of getting good agricultural labour.
Farm Relief Services are also struggling to recruit enough staff for the 200 vacancies that they advertised last November.
So it was no surprise when I got this half-joking, all-in-earnest email from a farmer I know well last week.
"Milk price, nitrates, inspections and submerged fields all pale in comparison to the challenge I face getting someone to help me milk my cows.
"I'm in my 50s, and starting to feel it milking 180 cows.
"The last lad left six months ago, and I've been searching since, but maybe €12.50 per hour is just not good enough?
"I had a number of people come and last two or three days and then just not turn up again.
"This is despite providing food and never raise my voice to them.
"I worked in industry for a while and managed up to 80 people without any major issues, but it appears that finding someone to milk cows is beyond me.
"I had one dairy cert graduate tell me he was over qualified to fork silage into half a dozen dry cows I had in a shed.
"Another guy gave me his schedule for the next year - fine in theory, but that became slightly irrelevant when he didn't come in on the Monday of his second week.
"The farm relief did their best but their selection was like a biscuit tin at the end of January - all the good ones were already gone.
"I offered to go into partnership with two different people but the level of delusion they possessed with their proposed share of the profits would not have materialised unless I covered the entire grazing area in poly tunnels and grew cannabis.
"Just this morning I expected an embarrassment of riches with not one, but two people due to arrive. They never surfaced.
"I am worried what will happen if I get sick. Roll on a robot that can milk cows in a parlour.
"The best guy I ever had was a Cowman from Lancashire who had to go home when his dad died.
"He was never in the yard before 6.30am or after 5.30pm; he went home for a 1.5 hour lunch, and had three days off every second weekend and five weeks holidays.
"I was paying him over €800 a week, but he was fantastic. He could smell a sick cow as soon as he came into the yard.
"So am I a slave driver? Or is the country gone lazy?
"In the meantime, I'm just waiting in hope that another English dairy worker answers my job advert."