7 pointers when employing staff on your farm – a farmer’s point of view
'Before hiring staff we think about who’s in the area, who would appreciate a bit of work at the weekends and we take it from there'
Labour is fast becoming the new quota for many dairy farms and it’s increasingly important for farmers to become aware of what employees look for applying for work on dairy farms.
Dairy farmer Diarmuid Hegarty recently shared his experience of being an employer.
Having started off with a shared labour unit and moving to full-time staff as well as relief milkers on his farm in Kilclough near Blarney, Co Cork, where he farms with his wife Catherine.
Diarmuid explained that he used to labour share a labour unit with another local farmer when he had 140 cows, which he said worked quite well. Diarmuid has since increased the herd size to 200 cows and taken on full-time labour working all year round on the farm.
“It really did work well, both farmers knew what was happening and what hours the extra staff would be there. It’s a good way in my opinion to start off employing people on your farm because you can learn a lot from it,” he explained at one of the workshops at the conference.
Another pointer he gave farmers when trying to recruit for the staff that has worked well for him in the past, was that he has a YouTube video that candidates can look at prior to taking visiting the farm.
“We have a video up online that was just done simply by my nephew last summer 12 months ago, where people can have a look and see if they would like to work on the farm,” he said.
He also noted that he does try to recruit more relief staff for weekends during the spring months to lessen the burden on the full-time staff.
“We always try to get extra staff for the spring time, so that it’s not expected for the full-time staff to be working seven days in the week.
“Before hiring staff we think about who’s in the area, who would appreciate a bit of work at the weekends and we take it from there,” he said.
“Even if it costs a bit of money to keep two or three milk relief workers on the go, it’ll be worth it. There’ll be one evening where the dull time staff won’t be able to work or the relief milker has other plans and you’ll be glad of them,” he said.
Communication is a big factor in making the working relationship successful, according to Diarmuid. When changing the wire, he said he uses WhatsApp to mark out a line on a photo of the paddock to illustrate where he wants the temporary fence changed to.
“The handiest way of communicating is to draw a line of where you want the fence up. My idea of half and the someone else’s idea of half could be completely different so at least this way they can’t deviate too far wrong,” he explained.
Hiring staff with no previous farming experience
The full time Farm Assistant that Diarmuid has taken on has no farming background, but has fitted into the farm quite well, according to Diarmuid.
“The milking is the biggest input of labour in the day. Start with someone that is good in the parlour and you can build out from this with other jobs,” explained the dairy farmer.
Farming near Blarney, he noted that his land bank is quite fragmented and they deal with roadways crossways but have set up in such a way that it can be managed by one person at all times.
“Even the furthest away paddock, which is 1.5km away and the cows need to cross the road three times, has been set up that one person can do this by themselves within three quarters of an hour,” he explained.
He also said it is as important for the farmer as the extra staff that good facilities are invested in and up and running.
“Facilities are there for everyone as well as yourself on the farm. Sometimes we’re guilty as farmers of saying we better get that ready for the new worker – we should have that ready for ourselves as well and take some pressure off.”
Aware of commitments
He also said it was important for farmers to be conscious of workers outside commitments and off the farm and to have clear start and finish times
“Whether it’s traffic or family or small things like a few mornings off during slower times of the year, workers appreciate this.”
It was also said at the workshop that having the promise of a possible partnership down the line, shouldn’t be dangled in front of staff or used purely to retain them.
“It might be something the famer might be wiling to offer for retention purposes but it could become a promise into nothing, this should be earned and given serious consideration.”
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