Farm Ireland

Saturday 15 December 2018

Labour demand soars by 20pc as dairy farmers struggle to cope with workload

File photo
File photo
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Demand for extra workers on farms this springtime surged by a further 20pc, according to Farm Relief Services (FRS).

The number of workers required soared in the dairy strongholds of Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Limerick and up into Wicklow.

"We've never had as many operators on the ground as we have at this minute," said Pádraig Madden of FRS. "It is growing all the time - we are up 15-20pc year on year."

He said they have been working hard to try and supply the extra labour required. "We took on 200 extra people in the spring - the vast majority were Irish," he said, adding some had come from New Zealand, whilst they also had some students on work experience from a Lithuanian university.

"We are working with New Zealand to bring people in on exchange programmes. Ireland is being developed as a top class destination for students on courses in Eastern Europe."

Teagasc has estimated that more than 6,000 people will need to enter the industry by 2025 as dairy herds expand.

Mr Madden said milking skills courses had taken place in Kildalton and Cavan, while courses are due to take place in Clonakilty and Pallaskenry.

He said there were plans to bring more courses to Meath, Cavan and Louth. Mr Madden said there was a lot of potential there and they were "confident" it would deliver workers.

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Meanwhile, Philip Tallon, Dawn Meats operations manager, said the factories were "struggling" with a "labour crisis" currently.

"Unemployment is at an all-time low, when this happened the last time we were able to take in non-EU workers, now we are not able to so. We are working with various agencies IBEC, MII and horticulture industry to see if we can get workers from outside Europe - Brazil, Ukraine to bring in and help out with the labour shortage."

Mr Tallon said they were actively recruiting in Eastern Europe but they preferred to work in the mainland of Europe. "The differential between the wage in Ireland and the wage in Europe has narrowed," he said, adding they would need up to 500 workers over the year.

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