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Saturday 18 November 2017

There wasn't a cow milked in Waterford! Hurling final exposes lack of relief milkers

More milkers needed to cope with 'extraordinary' demand

Conor Cooney gets away Darragh Fives to set up a Galway. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Cooney gets away Darragh Fives to set up a Galway. Photo: Sportsfile
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Graham Clifford

Such was the demand for milkers in Waterford on the weekend of the All-Ireland hurling final, even Farm Relief Services (FRS) couldn't supply enough personnel to cover the enormous need.

"It was extraordinary, but not unexpected," explains Ned Dunphy, the manager of FRS in the county.

"Some of our staff were double-milking as the demand was so high. We were getting call after call from farmers who were intending to head for Croke Park."

On average they found due to herd size and time in Waterford it was costing the farmer approximately €80 for two milking sessions.

To meet demand on busy GAA weekends, and at other hectic times during the year, the FRS has been trying to recruit in the South East and in June initiated a pilot scheme where they trained interested applicants to become milking operators.

"We reached out to the likes of beef farmers, women from farming backgrounds, those who just need to earn a bit more at certain times of the year and were able to recruit a few new milkers," said Dunphy.

And in the coming weeks an additional course which aims to train jobseekers and people in receipt of Farm Assist payments to become dairy operatives is to begin.

An analysis of labour market needs for the local dairy sector was carried out by the South East Regional Skills Forum, and now the Department for Social Protection is working with Teagasc, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), and FRS to highlight potential employment opportunities within the sector to jobseekers located in Waterford and Kilkenny.

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"Attracting the right people is so very important," explains Ned Dunphy. "Not only do these people need to be well-trained so they can do the job to a high standard but also, of course, they need to be trustworthy and dependable.

"Our hope is the new schemes will help boost numbers so that if Waterford reach another final soon we'll have all the cover we need here and beyond."


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