It is never too early to begin preparations for the busy spring-calving period. This year, in particular, farmers will need to put a lot of thought into what labour they will need for spring 2020; in case of a scenario where farmers have to keep bull calves for a longer period of time on farms.

Now, and not this spring, is when farmers should begin searching for the required labour they will need for their farm.

Also Read: How to make your farm a more attractive place to work

Reflecting back on previous years should help you decide how much labour you will need, as well as the type of farm labour that will best suit your farm – to reduce the workload this spring.

Also, looking back on previous years will help you to see where improvements can be made in terms of labour efficiency.

Night time calver

A night time calver is someone who usually comes in the evening and stays overnight on the farm – until early the next morning – doing any of the night-time duties.

Some larger farms employ a night-time calver for the busiest six weeks, while smaller farms may only employ a night-time calver for a few nights a week. 

In other cases, two or three farmers may share a night-time calver for that busiest period of the spring. But, situations can vary.

A relief milker

A relief milker can come in handy on larger farms – during the spring – in addition to another labour unit; or else on a smaller farm that may not have the cow numbers to require a full-time labour unit for the spring period.

In such instances, these farmers may benefit from a relief milker doing a proportion or all of the milkings during the busiest weeks; freeing up time for the farmer to focus on other things, such as calf rearing.

A calf rearer

In New Zealand, it is common for dairy farms to have a full-time calf rearer – solely dedicated to the rearing of the calves.

Here, on some larger farms, this is also the case. However, this could also be an option for smaller farms, as having a designated calf rearer can also allow the farmer to focus on other jobs.

As well, calves benefit from a consistent feeding pattern and routine – which a designated calf rearer can bring.

If considering getting a calf rearer, a strict calf management plan should be in place, which the rearer can follow.

Contracting out machinery work

Contracting out some of the machinery work on the farm – such as the silage feeding, fertiliser spreading or slurry spreading – will reduce the demand for labour in the spring.

Approach your contractor now to ensure that he/she is booked in advance.

Besides sourcing help

Upgrading facilities before the spring period can help to improve labour efficiency and reduce the hours worked on farm.

In addition, once-a-day (OAD) milking and OAD calf feeding are also ways of reducing the workload in the spring.

Contract rearing is another option; but only if you intend on increasing cow numbers. Where contract rearing is already carried out, perhaps arranging for the rearer to take the calves a couple of weeks earlier could be an option.

Sourcing labour

Finally, when sourcing spring help, you must be proactive. Placing adverts online – or elsewhere – contacting recruitment agencies and/or colleges are all good places to start.

Another option is to approach a dry-stock farmer in your area, to see if he/she may be interested in helping for a few hours per day or in doing a few milkings per week on your farm.