Dairy: Lessons in achieving a good work-life balance
Over 200 farmers attended a farm walk earlier this month on the farm of Fiachra and Aidan Liston in Croom, Co Limerick.
This father and son partnership have grown their dairy herd from 130 cows in 2007 to 253 cows in 2015, but what is most impressive is the way in which they have handled the extra labour requirement. The event was organised jointly by Teagasc and Kerry Agri-business.
Herd sizes have been creeping up on many farms over the past few years and this inevitably leads to increased labour demands. More cows mean more work. How this extra work is handled varies considerably between farms.
Many farmers attempt to take on all this extra work themselves which leads to longer working days, which in turn puts pressure on one's personal life. Achieving the correct work life balance is something many farmers struggle to achieve, but not so in the Listons case.
In 2011 and 2012 the Listons had employed a person through the local Farm Relief Service (FRS) to do the evening milkings. In spring 2013, Aidan had a hip replacement operation which put him out of action for the entire spring, and Pat, the FRS man who had been doing the evening milkings was employed on a full-time basis, through the FRS. This, to many, may seem as an unusual step. Why not employ someone directly?
Fiachra explained that employing Pat through the FRS has numerous advantages including no paperwork such as payslips, employee income tax, PRSI returns etc. And there is the added benefit that if Pat gets injured or sick, the FRS will source a suitable replacement.
Everyone on Liston farm knows exactly what their role is, and this is especially important in the spring time when the workload is at its peak. Fiachra looks after all the night calvings in the spring and then milks the cows in the morning after which he then hits the bed. Pat then looks after the day calvings, feeding and bedding. Aidan looks after the calf rearing at grass and completes all the office work.
In spring 2013, when Aidan was out of action, Fiachra's wife and Aidan's wife, both called Mary, took on the responsibility for the calf rearing, emphasising the true family spirit at the centre of this farm.