Dairy sector requires 6,000 new people by 2025

The Irish dairy sector needs 6,000 people to enter dairy farming by 2025, according to a report published by Teagasc today, June 2.

The report, ‘The People in Dairy Project’, is based on the future people requirements of Irish dairy farming over the next nine years.

A total of 2,000 new employment opportunities will be created in the sector by 2025, while 4,000 other people will be needed to provide for the regeneration of existing dairy farmers, the report states.

Launching the report, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, acknowledged the importance of dairy farming to rural Ireland and the contribution it makes to economic activity and employment in rural areas.

The report aims to outline future employment opportunities and how to sustainably support the dairy sector as it grows in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, the Director of Teagasc, Prof. Gerry Boyle, encouraged young people to consider a career in dairy farming.

Dairy farming can be a financially rewarding and enjoyable business which provides a good standard of living and a good work life balance.

“This can be achieved by having labour-efficient set-ups that make the day-to-day workload easier.

“There are opportunities for people to follow an attractive career in dairy farming and the opportunity for family farms to expand to improve their viability in the future,” he said.

A skilled workforce

As a whole, the dairy industry needs to rethink its attitude to career pathways, training and accreditation, according to one of the report’s authors, Paidi Kelly.

While carrying this out, it is important to maintain an integrated model of formal and informal training – including farm placement, he added.

“We need collective industry action to focus on making dairy farming a better career for everyone in the sector, for both farmers and employees. This will help attract more people,” he said.

Report highlights

The report was prompted by the dramatic change in the structure of Irish dairy farming in recent years, according to Teagasc.

Dairy cow numbers have increased by 327,000 since 2010, to over 1.35 million, the report states.

Meanwhile, the average size of a herd has increased from 54 cows in 2005, to 76 cows in 2016; dairy farmer numbers, however, have remained relatively static since 2010, it adds.

According to the report, the dairy industry is facing a severe shortage of new, young recruits; currently the average age of a dairy farmer is 58-years-old.

The number of graduates qualifying from Level 6 advanced programmes in Dairy Herd Management, 170 every year, are “totally inadequate”, given the projected requirement over the next nine years, the report adds.

L-R: Kevin Twomey, Chairman of Dairy Stakeholder Committee; the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed; the report’s author, Paidi Kelly from Teagasc; and the Director of Teagasc, Prof. Gerry Boyle

If 6,000 new people are required to enter the dairy sector by 2025, this equates to 688 people entering the sector every year; substantially lower than the current intake of graduates.

The report also highlights that as the dairy industry expands, there will be a greater requirement for highly-skilled people as well as a much greater demand for seasonal labour.

Some of these highly-skilled workers will be required to sustain existing dairy farm operations, where the owner wants to step back, the report states; this could be done through either employing a farm manager or entering collaborative farming arrangements.

Problem of labour shortages not unique to Ireland

The problem of not having a sufficient supply of skilled labour at farm level to meet requirements is not unique to Ireland, the report adds.

Three other countries – New Zealand, Australia and Canada – were also reviewed in the report.

Each of these countries have developed national co-ordinated programmes to attract, retain and develop people in dairying in their respective countries, according to the report.