People in Dairy: slow progress but steps being taken

Progress on the ‘People in Dairy Action Plan’ – which was published by Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine last June – has been slow, according to Teagasc research officer Paidi Kelly.

However, a number of developments have been made since the plan was announced, including taking steps towards improving education in labour and human resource management.

The plan was submitted to the minister last summer after being drawn up by the ‘People in Dairy Industry Stakeholder Group’, which was chaired by the former General Secretary at Minister Creed’s department, Tom Moran.

The initiative has been hampered by the fact that the position of programme manager – a role that entails implementing several aspects of the plan – has only been advertised within the last number of weeks.

The purpose of the plan is to grow the labour supply within the dairy industry, as herd sizes and the scale of the sector continue to grow. Among the challenges the plan predicted, it argued that the sector would need an additional 6,000 new entrants within the next decade to match expansion.

However, Kelly highlighted a number of positive steps that have been taken in the time since the plan was submitted to the minister.

Teagasc has begun two new farm labour efficiency and farm human resources (HR) studies, with each being worked on by a full-time PhD student; both projects began in September.

Also, a new project – entitled ‘Newbie’ – has been organised which, Teagasc hopes, will encourage and support new entrants to the dairy sector and promote careers in farming.

According to Kelly, the plan is experiencing difficulties by the fact that it was announced with no extra allocation of resources, and much of the focus has been on putting those resources in place.

Teagasc has also been running events with a focus on labour efficiency and HR skills on dairy farms.

Regarding the figure of 6,000 new entrants over the next 10 years, Kelly said that the progress on that number will not be known until the next farm structural survey, which is carried out every three years.

However, he highlighted that, between 2010 and 2016, there had been a 40% increase in employees on dairy farms which, he said, “matches the model well”.

He added that the increase in cow numbers will slow this year to 1% or 2%, and concluded that, for this reason, “we are happy the 6,000 figure is still a good estimate”.