Dairy farmers worked 12-hour plus days and got just one day off during stressful spring - Teagasc
Dairy farmers only got one day off and worked over 12 hour days during the stressful Spring period of 2018, according to a new Teagasc study on labour and stress issues.
Teagasc Livestock and Animal Research officer Dr Marion Beecher told FarmIreland that in May it collected 349 responses from dairy farmers in 37 discussion groups in 12 counties to examine the challenges faced by farmers during the spring period of 2018 which included the major weather event of Storm Emma.
The main challenges that farmers faced were weather, workload/labour and feed issues, Dr Beecher said.
“On average farmers estimated that they worked 86 hours per week (12.4 hours per day) and took less than one day off during March. However, farmers own estimate might include starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm but this might include a time they took a break or weren’t on the farm,” said Dr Beecher.
“It’s hard to know how accurate these figures are but it is concerning as working long hours can lead to increased cases of accidents as research suggests.”
The survey also stated that farmers only got one day off during the month of March which Dr Beecher explained is not sustainable for farmers and efforts will have to be made to make farm working hours more attractive to the next generation of farmers.
“That figure is from last spring which was very stressful for farmers. It’s hard to know whether this would be normal for farmers or was it just for that period. One day off is certainly not sustainable for a long period of time and the industry needs to look at ways to make farm work hours more attractive down the line.
“Little things like having a set milking time for example milking at 7am and again at 3pm doesn’t affect cell count or yields. It’s about being more organised in general.”
Calving, calving storage and rearing were considered to be good on 73pc of farms, while farmers also engaged in labour saving practises such as getting contractors out to spread slurry but contract feeding was only used by 6pc.
The survey also stated that 50pc of farmers were looking to hire staff next spring but 50pc weren’t. 58pc said they found it very difficult to get labour for last spring, while 14pc said they were unable to hire anyone. Family members working on farms were also a big feature in the survey.
Dr Beecher advised that it’s important to “plan in advance if looking to hire someone or to look at other labour saving practices to reduce your own labour if hiring someone isn’t an option."
Once a day milking was applied by one third of farmers in the survey for a period in spring which Dr Beecher said was a good labour saving tool but it may not suit every farmer as a low SCC is needed.
Dr Beecher added that the Teagasc team aims to complete a new study focussing on labour input on dairy farmers in Spring 2019.
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