Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Farmers struggle to find labourers as they're drawn back to building sector

Employment opportunities have increased in sectors including construction. Photo: Bloomberg
Employment opportunities have increased in sectors including construction. Photo: Bloomberg

Claire McCormack

Skilled farm labour is proving more difficult and expensive to secure due to the upturn in the economy.

Many farmers seeking experienced agricultural workers are struggling to get competent candidates as employment opportunities improve in other sectors.

Peter Byrne of FRS Networks said competition for staff had intensified this year as more work had become available, particularly in the building industry.

Byrne said dairy farmers were already booking workers for the busy spring calving season.

FRS require 70 to 100 additional staff for the period across its local office network in the south and east, but Byrne conceded that securing experienced people will be more difficult this year.

"We are trying to recruit in enough people to be ready to go in the spring. Ideally we like to hire experienced people but it's not always possible," he explained.

To tackle the labour shortage FRS launched a training programme at the Ploughing Championships and will be placing recruits on farms through November and December as part of this initiative.

While trainees are paid €9.15/hr, rates for more experienced operators range from €10-13/hr.

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Jerry Twomey of the Irish Farm Managers Association (IFMA) said hiring farm managers was proving a serious headache for many farmers this year.

While Teagasc's Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management had established a route into the sector for young managers, Twomey said the flow of graduates from this course had yet to get going.

Around 13 came through the course - which is based out of Moorepark and Kildalton - this year but most had either gone home or overseas to work, he pointed out.

However, Twomey said more young managers would come on stream in 2017 as up to 25 trainees are due to graduate from the Teagasc course.

In a move aimed at facilitating the hiring of staff in the agriculture sector, the IFMA has launched a new jobs portal.

Those looking for farm managers or assistant managers email the job spec to the IFMA, who then forward it on to paid-up members. The IFMA members can then contact the farmer directly.

The service has already been used to fill one or two positions. Advertising a position costs the farmer €120.

Meanwhile, the IFMA is hosting a farm walk at the holding of Michael Bateman, Crookstown, Bandon, Co Cork on Friday, November 11 at 11.30am. Farm partnerships and share farming will be among the topics for discussion.

Indo Farming