Attracting and keeping staff on many Irish dairy farms continues to be an issue as the busy spring-calving period approaches.

The agricultural sector continues to face labour shortages, so what can you do to make your farm a more attractive place of work?

Dairy farms

The growth of the national dairy herd has seen an increased requirement for staff on farms.

But on many farms, attracting and keeping staff has proven difficult. Here are some considerations for you if you are hiring this spring.


You should make a roster for any potential employee, including days off and expected hours of work.

Although exact hours of work may be hard to determine during the spring, you should have a time set out for when work should stop.

Springtime on many farms is a busy time of year so the planned end of day time might not always be achievable, but on days when it is achievable, the employee should be allowed leave.

You should offer the employee regular days off, with a five days on and two days off rota or 11 days on and three days off system which is also common on many farms.


You should develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for jobs on your farm, including feeding calves, milking and machine operation.

Firstly, this will ensure that the job in complete to the level you expect and secondly it will make it far easier for the employee to understand and put into practice.

You can draw up and print off these SOPs to be placed in the most practical area; they may become useful in areas like the milking parlour when a relief milker is milking.

Below are some examples of SOPs on the operation of the milking parlour on a farm from a Dairy Focus visit last year.

SOPs for milking parlour

Facilities on dairy farms

Having good facilities does not mean having everything new, but having facilities that are safe to work in.

Staff are hard to recruit and ensuring that they stay with you should be paramount. Unsafe working conditions will quickly lead to an employee leaving.

You should have good calving facilities with a calving gate, PTO shafts should all have covers and you should warn them about the presence of a bull or other potentially dangerous animals.

It is also important that you continue to communicate with your staff and that any issues can be discussed.