Outsourcing of labour set to rise in dairy farms

Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle

Claire Mc Cormack

There will be an increase in the outsourcing of seasonal tasks on dairy farms, a Teagasc financial specialist has predicted.

As concerns over farm labour shortages continue to spiral, Teagasc's Kevin Connolly, says it's time for dairy farmers to explore supports outside the farm gate.

"There will be more outsourcing of basic jobs on the farm, fertiliser spreading, AI, silage, spraying - a lot of that is going to take off in Ireland.

"You'll see guys specialising in services for a dozen or 20 dairy farmers in their area on a regular basis. They will buy the machinery and they'll be running their own little business," he said.

Although Mr Connolly says farmers have traditionally avoided looking for outside help because of costs, he believes this attitude will have to change.

Read also: Dairy farmer on choice between sourcing more labour or investing in infrastructure when expanding

"They think they are saving money but they are actually spending more time on jobs that they could easily outsource.

"Farmers are under stress, dairy farmers in particular, and they are putting a lot of that stress on themselves to drive on while milking 50pc or 80pc more cows. That is not sustainable.

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"They are just chasing their tails by trying to do all the work they've done in the past and they feel a little bit of failure if they are seen to take on any extra help from outside.

There is a little bit of 'keeping up with the Joneses' attitude there too," he said.

Read also: Farm workers 'more productive' with tech aids

Mr Connolly was speaking at a Teagasc conference on 'Employing People on Farms' in Thurles last week.

Teagasc, in collaboration with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), launched a manual which addresses all issues that an employer must take into consideration in advance of employing.

Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle said dairy farmers are facing an "unparalleled situation" in terms of labour and the challenges ahead.

"The number of dairy herds with over 100 cows has risen to nearly 50pc. That's up from 13pc in 2005.

"Close to 3,000 extra jobs will be needed over the next decade on dairy farms and that clearly is going to create issues of where that labour is going to come from and also the training of that labour," he said.

Although Prof Boyle highlighted the positive side of job creation in the sector, he says the issue of managing farm labour has been neglected for "far too long".

He believes dairy farmers can learn a lot from the labour example set by the pig sector.

"Our record of managing labour on farms in latter generations hasn't been a good one and we have to change that because labour is going to be scarce.

"We're going to need good people that we can trust and we're not going to get them unless we pay a reasonable wage with terms and conditions that will support the farm business," he said.

Farmers facing 'unparalleled' challenge on labour issues warns Teagasc director

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