Women in agriculture targeted in new recruitment campaign

Farm Relief Services (FRS) has been targeting women in agriculture in a bid to address the labour shortage, especially in the dairy industry.

Dry stock farmers and those on Farm Assist and other supports have also been urged to put themselves forward for flexible work.

Leaflets distributed by FRS said that up to €8,000 could be earned this spring with flexible work for which paid training is provided. They stated that a variety of relief work is available including: milking; calf rearing; calving supervision; and machinery operation.

Peter Byrne, CEO, FRS Network, said that a pilot scheme is underway in Kildalton, covering Waterford and Kilkenny. “We have identified eight people who are going through a pilot training course. The training is for 20 days, 16 of which are spent one-to-one with a host farmer, with four days spent as a group at Kildalton Agricultural College,” he said.

“To identify those, Teagasc circulated the leaflet to over 1,000 farmers, and they were also circulated through FRS and other channels,” said Byrne. “We are hoping to roll out the initiative to the rest of the country, and run it in association with Teagasc in other colleges.

We are continuing to look for women and dry stock farmers who are interested in doing off-farm work, as there is serious demand for workers, with farmers booking well ahead.

The FRS CEO said he had feedback from one of the pilot scheme tutors, John Connolly in Kildalton, that he was very impressed with the standard.

This initiative, he said, will help alleviate labour shortages. “We have to look at every option. We are also looking at recruiting people locally who have experience. Peak demand will be next spring for dairy – the end of January to the end of May.”

Philip Kenny, manager of Kilkenny, Carlow and District FRS, said four of the pilot programme trainees are from his catchment area, including one woman. “One came off social welfare and three were non-dairy farmers,” he said.

Asked about the controversy of taking people off social welfare, Kenny said they had done that in the past, without problems. “If people have the interest and are willing to learn, there is never a difficulty. Having a good farmer to train with is important,” he said.

We have another course starting in October, and this will be our third. There are openings there that women and men can avail of.

“One farmer told me that he took on a woman to rear calves who had no experience of doing so, and she worked out very well for the whole of spring,” Kenny said.