The national dairy herd has experienced a large increase post-milk quota, with 100 cow herds becoming the norm in many parts of the country; recent figures from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) showed a 3.7% increase of the national herd in 2020 from 2019.

Since 2011, the national herd has experienced a 31% increase – up until 2020 – with dairy cow numbers growing from 1,144,826, to 1,570,180.

Because of the growth in dairy cow numbers, the need for dairy farm workers has become more pressing than ever, with many farmers finding it difficult to find and retain staff.

National dairy herd

Farm staff are one of, if not the most important resource to Irish dairy farmers who have expanded post-quota.

It is important that the working environment on the farm is a good one. This will not only make the farm a more attractive place to work, but will also make it easier to retain staff.

Many dairy farmers have had great strides in improving their farms through better grassland management, animal breeding and become more environmentally sustainable, but their management of staff is lagging behind.

To make your farm a more attractive place to work, here are some top tips:

  1. Be fair and don’t point the finger;
  2. Vary the tasks;
  3. Make the tasks as easy as possible and more enjoyable;
  4. Clearly explain the way you want a task to be completed;
  5. Communication is key;
  6. Incentivise with time-off and responsibility;
  7. As much as is possible, have a set start and finish time.
Ornua milking Lakeland

Other considerations

Apart from people management, other points to consider when trying to employ staff is looking at the facilities on the farm.

Some questions to ask include: Is the milking currently taking too long too complete? Is the machinery safe for people to operate? Finally, is the farm well organised and a safe place for workers?

According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), there have been over 210 deaths related to agriculture since 2011, with tractors accounting for 91 deaths (43%), followed by 39 (19%) for livestock and 22 (10%) for machinery.

A good work place to work is a safe place to work, well organised, and with the resources people need to efficiently complete all tasks.

Having a good work environment is not just important for employees – but also for family members.