Wanted: 6,000 wannabe dairy farmers to help expanding sector

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Some 6,000 new entrants into dairying will be required in the next decade to replace retirees and meet the labour requirements of the expanding dairy herd.

A new report from Teagasc shows that the availability of an adequate supply of skilled labour as the greatest threat to successful and sustainable expansion of the Irish dairy industry.

It also says that there is a concern that some dairy farmers are not coping well with the increased workload associated with expansion and that this is causing increased stress at farm level for farm employers and employees.

The working group behind the report found that the structure of the Irish dairy industry has significantly changed in recent years, as the average herd size increased from 45 cows in 2005 to 76 cows in 2016.

While the number of dairy farm numbers have remained static while dairy cow numbers have increased by 327,000 and the report's authors say that this increased workload within dairy farms cannot be serviced by family labour alone.

It says that from now until 2025 it is estimated that there will be a requirement at farm level for an additional 2,315 full time equivalents and 3,958 to sustain regeneration to facilitate a sustainable expansion of the Irish dairy industry, while the number of graduates is totally inadequate to meet this demand.

It recommends that dairy farming is promoted as an attractive career; expand participation in Level 7 Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management course; promote labour efficient farm practices; develop new training programmes for existing dairy farm employers, with a special emphasis on HR skills, including Health and Safety; facilitate career pathways for farm employees to progress from staff to business ownership; develop initiatives that recognise excellence in dairy farming; national coordinating organisation is required to oversee implementation.

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