Advice from New Zealand on how to manage staff on an expanding dairy farm

With one third of New Zealand milk supply coming through share milking partnerships, managing employees is a critical part of the dairy sector Mark Paine told the recent Teagasc Dairy Conference.

The New Zealand consultant said the dairy employment situation is a key element of dairy farming in New Zealand.

New Zealand has developed share milking in recent years and today about one third of milk supply comes through the share milking platform.

With the average dairy farmer in New Zealand being 141ha and an average herd of 400 cows, the country depends on dairy as its primary source of export returns.

“We have an industry strategy that is designed to have dairy farming working for everyone. To get the right people into the industry we have to have a good reputation as an industry.”

Dairy Employment Strategy

“We want to attract the best, grow them on farm and retain them. If we do this right, we have the evidence to go back to the public and say this is where your children should be working.”

Paine also told the dairy conference that having co-ordination at industry level of share farming, with targets and key industry stakeholders involved was critical to its success.

Balanced Work/Life Strategy

A 2014 survey in New Zealand found that only 45% of people saw working in the dairy industry as an attractive career option, a number that was declining.

Paine said that the structure in place works around a 50-hour working week, a roster system with an employment contract that incorporates a 10-hour working day and two consecutive days off.

Fair Remuneration

Fair remuneration, Paine said, not only means that dairy farms have to meet all legal requirements but they must offer a competitive wage and salary rates that attract talented people.

“But it’s more than just wages and salary. It’s about the whole value package.”

Health and Safety

Paine also said that a core value of the New Zealand dairy industry is to make sure everyone gets home safe and well at night.

“You need a plan and someone dedicated to health and safety, so there are no surprises for someone new coming onto the farm.

“New Zealand is losing lose to $32m a year on reported accidents through injuries and accidents. But there is more unreported accidents.

“There must be a culture of health and safety on the farm.”

Team Work

Paine that that a key to holding onto employees is to value them. He cited a dairy farm, with two holdings, with six employees and a part-time relief milker.

“The whole culture is that it’s a sheer joy to be there. They believe in their workers, have expectations of their workers and the workers step up to the mark.”

Careers

“People grow and you have to provide for that on the farm. We have a programme running that goes back into the schools.”

Staff, he said, must be given the chance to learn new skills and knowledge and be rewarded by progression.

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