How does seasonality affect dairy farm labour?

Seasonality is a key issue to contend with when providing farm labour on dairy farms, according to industry top brass.

Speaking on the latest episode of FarmLand, operations and business development manager with FRS Network Padraig Madden explained to presenter Claire Mc Cormack how this affects recruitment.

“Seasonality is a big issue naturally enough from our point of view. We’re looking to source good people – but we’re looking to retain people as well.

“The spring time of the year from the last week of January, first week of February right through to the end of April is a hugely busy time on farms.

“And the work can tend to taper off slightly after that, and sometimes it can be difficult to find work for people after that stage when cows go out to grass, calves are getting reared and the pressure comes off of farmyards.

“So to place these people and keep them in work is vitally important for us – because retention is hugely important.”

Rate of pay

Rate of pay is another challenge to contend with, Madden noted. When asked about it, the manager said:

“It is something we have to address. We know the economy is going so well at the moment; there is competition out there from other sectors – we have seen that.

From the last time we had a boom, a lot of people turned away from the agri sector and went towards construction and other types of industries.

“But we have to look at it from our side, we have to address the rate situation, we have to put good conditions on farms, for people to come, be attractive places to work and for people to stay.”

Madden also commented on the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s pilot work permit scheme for non-EEA (European Economic Area) workers introduced last year.

The manager confirmed that the FRS is looking into bringing in workers through this facility, with applications currently in progress.

When asked why there hadn’t been greater uptake for the allocation of 50 permits for the dairy sector – which were not all used – he said:

“There’s a number of issues in it. It’s costly, number one – it costs €1,000 for one of those permits.

“To source someone from outside the EU is quite a task in itself – it takes quite a length of time to source those people, to vet those people, whether it’s Skype calls, reference checks, police clearance certificates – this all takes time.

“Then there’s a few little stumbling blocks as well, there’s a 50:50 rule there on farms as well where you can’t have more than 50% of your staff as non-EEA.

So little things like that can stifle farmers away from doing it themselves. We’re working on it at the moment; we’ve a number of applicants going through the process.

“It takes a bit of time – anything from 6-12 weeks to process the applications. We’re in the middle of that at the moment and I’ve been looking after that for the last three, four, five months.

“It’s a big job of work by the time you get that application processed, get the paperwork filled in, and all the necessary attachments that go with that,” Madden said.